Do I need a Grow Light?
According to Robb Bauman, partner at True Leaf Market, and our microgreen expert for this video series, no light is required to grow microgreens or sprouts because all of the energy needed to grow to an edible stage is in the seed alone. “However, light changes things,” says Robb. He recommends experimenting and growing your microgreens in very little light, indirect natural light, or under a grow light. Your greens will vary in each scenario from tall and “leggy”, to pale in color, or shorter with larger leaves.
It’s good to experiment with different lighting setups to decide how you like your microgreens. For example, corn microgreens grown in complete darkness are sweet as candy, but as soon as the photosynthesis process starts their flavor changes from sweet to bitter. Changing your lighting can change the flavor of your microgreens.
What can and what shouldn’t be grown as a microgreen?
Anything in the nightshade family should not be grown and consumed as a microgreen. Plants in the nightshade family are tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplants, goji, and potato plants.
Can any seed be sprouted and consumed as a sprout?
There are certain seeds like basil and chia that form a natural mucus layer around the seed when they become wet, and if the seed doesn’t have a soil base it can easily rot. Seeds that develop this mucosal layer are not seeds that you want to sprout. Other seeds like cilantro have a hard seed coat, making it difficult for water to penetrate. The length of time spent in the rinsing phase increases the chances of the cilantro seed growing mold and rotting.
Plants in the nightshade family are poisonous and shouldn’t be consumed as a sprout.
Keeping a Log
When growing microgreens in the 5x5’s you’ll most likely be growing a variety of seeds. It’s easy to forget what you’ve planted as many of the seedlings look similar.
Making a “map” of your trays will help you identify which seeds germinate the fastest, what grew the best, and what microgreens you prefer.
It’s also a good idea to keep a calendar with your watering cycle, that way you’ll know if you need to water more or less given your environment. As mentioned in the previous blog post, Part 2: Planting and Watering, Robb’s rule of thumb is to “keep your microgreens damp, but not soaking.”
It’s not just about growing, it’s about eating your microgreens too!
When your microgreens are looking full and delicious, it’s time to harvest and feast. Microgreens are a great complement to snacks, on sandwiches, your favorite egg dish, or even just as is; fresh and flavorful.
As a microgreens instructor with the University of Utah’s Continuing Education program, Robb Bauman says one of the biggest mistakes he finds people making is not eating the microgreens once they’re grown.
Growing Microgreens and Sprouts Tips and Tricks
Mold or roots?
Many seeds, like radish, can grow feathery like roots that look like mold when they first begin to sprout in your sprouting jar. If you pull out your magnifying glass you will see that what you thought was white mold is actually lots of tiny roots.
Why do my basil seeds look moldy?
When basil seeds become wet, they form a gelatinous membrane around them that makes them look moldy, but this is a harmless mucilage layer of a healthy seed.
My microgreens definitely have some mold!
If your microgreens do get a little mold, you can spray them with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water to kill the mold, then continue to grow and harvest them.
What sorts of containers can I use to grow microgreens?
You can grow microgreens in a variety of containers. In the video we harvest microgreens from a cream cheese container as well as a beautiful ceramic pot, both grown from the experts at True Leaf Market.
If your container doesn’t have holes or a hole for drainage you’ll just want to be very diligent about your watering cycle. A good piece of advice from Robb Baumann is, you want your microgreens moist but not soaking.
That concludes our final installment of our microgreens and sprouts project. If you're interested in growing your own microgreens and sprouts checkout our Part 1: Getting Started and Part 2: Planting and Watering videos and blog posts.
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