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.
They are easy to grow, nearly as easy as germinating cress and the methods used are virtually the same. Good hygiene is required and a clean shallow container (an old punnet with holes in is ideal). Sow different varieties in their own small container. Place a flat layer of cotton wool or a 2cm layer of vermiculite in the container. Water carefully and lightly sprinkle on seed either leave uncovered or sprinkle over a thin layer of vermiculite. Seeds can also be sown into a seed tray filled with compost and either covered with vermiculite or a thin layer of compost. Place on a warm windowsill (but not one that is in direct sunlight all day) and keep moist.
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.
Most vegetable seeds make good Microgreens but do not use parsnip shoots as these are highly poisonous.