Microgreens also known as microleaves are the small immature shoots of normal veg that are harvested when the first tiny leaves have just opened. They are used to garnish soups, salads, sandwiches, top fish and add colour & flavour to many other dishes.
Microleaves are used by top class chefs to add a touch of ‘je ne sais quoi’ as some leaves pack a punch with intense flavour like peppery radish or sweet basil and others like Swiss Chard add tiny colourful stems that brighten up the dinner plate. Raymond Blanc adds a little baby basil to finish off his Tomato soup and Jamie Oliver uses baby chives with a salmon recipe.
Microgreens are not available in supermarkets as they lose their flavour and freshness too quickly and so are at their best when picked and used straight away from your own kitchen. They are best sown and grown indoors (greenhouse is ok in summer) and are great in winter when fresh veg is scarce.
Microgreens are easy to grow, nearly as easy as germinating cress and the methods used are virtually the same.
Here's our guide to growing Microgreens:
Equipment needed to grow Microgreens
3 seed trays:
- The bottom one will be used as a water container, so make sure that it has no holes in!
- The middle one will be used to sow the seeds and will need holes in
- The top one will be turned upside to blackout the light, so no holes
Add 2-3cm of potting compost into a seed tray. Firm down the compost in order to provide an even growing medium
- Using a spray bottle, wet the potting compost
- Broadcast the seeds thickly and evenly on the damp compost, press the seeds to ensure maximum soil contact
- Lightly spray all the seeds
- Place a seed tray on top of the seed tray to blackout all light and place somewhere warm for c.2 days until germinated, an airing cupboard would be ideal or you could use propagators
- Check every 24 hours whether more water is required, if so gently spray/mist
- After 2 days check for germination
- Once germinated move into a bright location and check whether they need moisture - light brown soil suggest water is needed if so spray lightly
- Fill the bottom tray with water and place the seed tray in this ‘bath’ this will allow the compost to soak up the water from below. If you add water from above you risk creating too damp an environment and fungus will set in
- Check water requirement every day and add more water if required
- The seeds will grow at different rates, some will start to germinate after 3 days but harvest shoots when about 2.5cm-5cm by cutting at the base with sharp scissors and use immediately. Sowing can take place all year round.
Temperature for Microgreens
Ideal soil temperature is 24C until germination then reduced to 16°C. Optimal ambient temperatures are variety-specific, but 18–24C is generally a favourable range. Temperatures above 24C can increase disease/fungus and inhibit germination.
Days to maturity
Varies depending on the variety, growing conditions, and desired size at harvest. Fast-growing varieties are typically ready for harvest in 5-15 days while slow-growing varieties are ready in 16-25 days.
Because they are planted so densely, Microgreens can be prone to disorders, such as damping off, associated with poor air circulation and saturated media. Ensure air movement with horizontal airflow fans, use clean media and water sources, and use appropriate seeding density.
Harvesting Microgreens:Typically, Microgreens are harvested at 1-3cm in height. Cut with scissors or a sharp knife and minimise handling to reduce damage.
How to store Microgreens:Shelf life ranges from 5-10 days under proper storage conditions. Microgreens must be washed before serving.
Most vegetable seeds make good Microgreens but do not use parsnip shoots as these are highly poisonous.
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