The power of microgreens and how to grow them
It seems extraordinary that so much of what is currently available to eat contains so little in the way of actual nourishment. Fizzy drinks, sweets and processed snacks provide lots of energy but few of the nutrients we need for strong, healthy bodies. They’re just “empty calories”, which means if you eat a lot of them you end up gaining weight but not getting the actual nutrients your body needs.
By contrast, focusing on nutrient-dense foods as a way of eating ensures multiple benefits. These foods are often linked with a reduced risk of chronic disease. As you might imagine, vegetables occupy most of the top rankings for nutrient-dense foods. Gram for gram, watercress contains more nutrients than any other vegetable (yes it’s more of a ‘superfood’ than kale) but all dark, leafy greens and all the cabbage family are powerhouses on the nutrition front.
It makes sense really, that the first, tiny leaves that a seed produces after it has sprouted are going to be powerhouses on the nutrient front. After all, they are created from everything inside the seed that will enable it to grow.
For reasons including access, cost and convenience, and also preference, lots of us aren’t eating the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits per day. Microgreens come to the rescue – they can easily be grown at home in a small space with little cost and provide a huge return in terms of nutrients. You can grow lots of different varieties in the same tray and keep planting new seeds every week so you get a regular supply.
How to grow them at home
Start with an untreated wooden tray. Line it with weed mat and fill with seed-raising mix to a depth of 8-10cm. Sprinkle seeds on top and press lightly into the soil. Any untreated sprouting seeds are good, including red cabbage, beetroot, spinach, sliverbeet, watercress, rocket and parsley, or a mixture of these. Lightly dust with a thin layer of seed-raising mix – the finer the seed, the lighter the coating. Water lightly and put in a warm sunny spot, watering gently every day.
As the seedlings emerge, feed them with a diluted seaweed-based tonic to encourage good root development. Depending on the temperature, you will have microgreens to harvest within two or three weeks. When they are 5-6cm tall, snip them off with scissors or kitchen snips to harvest. If the seedlings have two leaves you will only get one harvest but if you wait till they are a bit bigger and cut them leaving a little green on the stalks, the plants will regrow to give you another harvest in another three or four weeks.
How to use them in the kitchen
Add a handful of microgreens to salads, sandwiches, omelettes and sushi, use them as a garnish, or blend them in smoothies, soups and pestos for a kick of all-round goodness that your body will thank you for. To get you started why not try out one of these recipe ideas.
I tend to use this flavoured oil like a pesto. It’s great with any kind of seafood, chicken or lamb, or as a salad dressing.
These delicate finger sandwiches make a quick and easy lunch or can be served for morning or afternoon tea.
Baby spinach or kale can be used instead of microgreens in this speedy power-packed smoothie.