Microgreens are simply tiny vegetables, herbs, and flowers that are harvested at a very immature stage, just as the first pair of true leaves are emerging. It’s a one-off harvest as they don’t grow back. But there are some good reasons to grow microgreens. First of all, they are incredibly nutritious and easy to digest. In this regard, they are much like sprouts – they have all the nutrition and flavour of mature plants, but they lack tough cell walls, so your body can break them down completely and quickly.
Microgreens can be grown anywhere, at any time of year. You need to provide some basic elements like soil, moisture, and light, but that’s it. You can grow them in the winter in Yellowknife, or in the summer in Tahiti – it makes no difference. I also like microgreens because of the wildly diverse potential they represent. Seeds that would be totally unsuitable for growing as sprouts (think basil, which can take 3 weeks to germinate), make excellent microgreens.
On that note, I might mention that seeds selected for sprouting in water (alfalfa, bean sprouts, etc), are chosen precisely because they germinate very quickly and evenly. Not all seeds do this, of course.
Last August and September, I actually grew all of these microgreens out and timed them for use in this chart, as well as our Two Week Blend and Three Week Blend. This experiment was made easier because I was using the magnificent Growlight Garden.
We see a ton of products developed for home gardeners as well as professional growers. Like every industry, we attend trade shows, and are presented with all kinds of gadgets and gizmos. From time to time one comes along that is superb, and the Growlight Garden, in my opinion, is superb. It’s clever, simple, efficient, inexpensive, and ideal for growing microgreens.
At the bottom is a reservoir for water. In this sits a short, table-like stand. On the stand sits a cotton mat that wicks water up to the bottom of four food-grade plastic trays. The bottom of each tray combines raised and lowered drainage holes – half come in contact with the mat to suck water up by capillary action. The other half allow oxygen to enter the soil. Above all this is a hood containing two high-output T5 fluorescent tubes against a reflective surface. These are attached to a single 3-foot power cord with an on/off switch. The hood can be raised or lowered as needed, and because of the mat/wick, the unit is essentially self-watering.
You plant your seeds, fill the tray with water, and walk away. We have had one of these units running in our retail store full time for about three years. When the microgreens are ready, we harvest them and replace the tray with new soil and seeds. There has never been any mould, no odours, and no problems at all. Should a mat develop mould, it can be washed with a little bleach, or just replaced.
For what it is, you get incredibly good value. We have tried sunflower microgreens (delicious!), nasturtiums (spicy!), arugula (my personal favourite), beets and chard for colour. Pea shoots are wonderful. The potential for experimentation is pretty vast.
The Growlight Garden is also ideal for growing wheatgrass. It’s also the ideal size and shape to hold the standard 10 x 20 seedling flat, and the light is powerful enough to keep your seedlings stout and strong – so as a seed starting unit, it’s really all you need.
At $139.99, for the amount of use you can get out it, the Growlight Garden is a steal, and gets my solid endorsement.