Adventures of a first-time sprouter

About a week ago, I decided to try my hand at growing microgreens… the seedlings of vegetables and herbs.

When we lived near the city, I bought microgreens regularly at the grocery store. I loved adding them to tacos, salads, sandwiches and soups. They add a crunch and an unexpected punch of flavor to everything. They can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

Microgreens are a good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Some scientific evidence suggests that microgreens are powerful antioxidants, but that depends on the plant. Broccoli sprouts are especially healthy because while both broccoli and broccoli sprouts are full of healing antioxidants, broccoli sprouts have 50-100 times more healing properties than bunches of broccoli. The healing ingredient, sulforaphane, is extracted when chewing and breaking down the sprout. I love superfoods.

Armed with a few videos from the internet; a truckload of confidence thanks to a somewhat successful run with kitchen window herbs; a package with about four bazillion tiny seeds in it for a spicy mix of nutrient dense arugula, cress, radish, turnip and mustard green microgreens; some yet-unused window boxes, nothing was going to stop me in this latest kitchen endeavor.

An easy and fun way to add super-packed nutrition to our daily diets, growing microgreens was going to be so easy. First, I put some nice soil in a new, unused window box I bought for my herb gardening. I sprinkled seeds and pressed it into the soil, added a little soil on top, watered it and covered it for three days, watering every day. I’ve got the prettiest microgreens growing now, not quite ready to harvest but I have sampled some.

After you trim the microgreens to harvest them, they don’t grow back. You can reuse the soil if you turn it, and the leftover microgreen bits will become part of the soil. You can use coconut coir as your growing medium, too. Next time, I’m going to use a thinner layer of soil, and maybe that rusty old cookie sheet that has so tenderly held my herb seedling in the window.

Then, my husband suggested I try growing them in mason jars, so I did a little research (watched videos) and got started. I put about a tablespoon of the microgreen seeds in a clean, widemouthed mason jar, filled it about halfway with filtered water, put cheesecloth over the top and secured it with the mason jar ring and stuck it in a dark cabinet overnight.

For several days, morning and night, I rinsed my precious little seeds and started to notice that the water wasn’t draining through the cheesecloth, but instead the seeds were clinging to it and clogging it up, while sprouting through the cheesecloth. I thought this was supposed to be easy. My thumbs are relatively green – how could I fail at microgreens?

I researched a little further than online videos and found that the microgreen seeds are not the same as sprouts. Some of the microgreens I was trying to sprout were mucilaginous in nature, meaning they form a gelatinous substance around themselves when soaked.

Well, that certainly explains the globs of seeds stuck in the cheesecloth on the jars, and the reason they didn’t drain well. I also read that it’s best to plant those little ones dry, because it’s easier to spread the seeds across the growing medium. With that knowledge, I went ahead and pretended like I was planting dry seeds in soil, and already have seen growth from them in just one full day.

I’m conducting an experiment to see if the sprouts will continue to grow from the cheesecloth that they were entwined in, rather than throwing it away. So far, so good.

With the click of the computer mouse, a package of broccoli sprouts and special screens designed for growing sprouts in mason jars arrived. I started the broccoli sprouts, and like magic, they behaved exactly like the instructional videos I watched – rinsing easily and spreading out on the inside walls of the jar like they were supposed to. Microgreens and broccoli sprouts are now taking up residence in every available kitchen window.

“What are you planning to do with all these microgreens and sprouts?” Mr. Johns asked, seeing the small garden of planter boxes and jars I assembled, with seedlings, little sprouts and un-sprouted seeds germinating.

I replied, “Eat them, and feed them to you!”

How to Grow Microgreens
(You can easily grow different seeds in several containers, and mix your microgreens after harvesting)

You will need:
-Growing Medium, such as Planting Soil or Coconut Coir
-4 teaspoons Microgreen seeds (or regular seeds for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard, chia, sunflower or buckwheat — among the easiest-to-grow varieties of microgreens).
-10” x 10” Growing Tray (you can use any size tray, just be sure to adjust the number of seeds accordingly).
-Spray Bottle with Water (for keeping the growing medium moist throughout the growing process). 

Cover the bottom of the container with an inch or two of moistened soil. Flatten and level it with your hand, being mindful not to compact the soil.
If you’re using coconut coir or another growing medium, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Evenly scatter the seeds onto the growing medium. Press the seeds gently into the soil, and then cover with a very thin layer of soil.

Cover the growing tray with a lid or another tray. The key is to keep the growing medium moist so that the seeds can germinate well, and also to keep light out.

 Lightly mist the soil once or twice daily throughout the growing process. It is important that the soil stays moist, but not too damp (too much moisture can lead to mold). A good indicator is to look at the soil: you want it to always appear dark, not dried out.

 When your microgreens have developed leaves (usually after 3 – 4 days), it’s time to remove the cover and move the growing tray to an area with plenty of natural light. Continue misting the crop with water 2 times per day, paying attention to the moisture level of the soil.

 Most greens will be ready for harvest in 8 – 12 days. You may prefer to harvest a little sooner or later depending on your preference. Feel free to taste the greens throughout the growing process to see what you like!

2 thoughts on “Adventures of a first-time sprouter

    1. Thank you so much! I’m published weekly in The Alpine Avalanche newspaper… these blogs are the full version of my weekly columns, with additional photos. The newspaper only has so much space on the page for my ramblings!

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