The world's tiniest veggies from start to finish

We all love the taste of freshly-picked fruit and vegetables and given the choice we would probably all eat only the freshest of the fresh year-round. But sadly, regardless of how badly we are craving that sweet red-ripe watermelon, most Iowan produce is only in-season for a couple months. Luckily, there are some types of local produce that can be enjoyed all year long and grown right in your own home. 

As revealed in my previous post, Microgreens: Health Benefits (check it out!) microgreens are young seedlings typically harvested within 10-14 days after being planted. Because of this, they are loaded with vitamins and other compounds that provide our bodies with crazy good health benefits. In addition to their amazing components, these tiny crops can be grown and harvested throughout the entire year thanks to greenhouses. 

However, you don't necessarily need a greenhouse to grow your own microgreens and sprouts; all you really need is the proper environment and soil for these baby seedlings to take off! But first, let's go ahead and recap some of the more common types:

  • Red Cabbage (declared most nutritious by USDA)
  • Arugula
  • Amaranth
  • Cilantro
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Radish
  • Celery 

The Growing Process

The only major difference between microgreens and sprouts is whether soil is necessary for the growing process. Typically, sprouts are soaked in water and kept damp until harvested, while microgreens are planted in soil. But both follow roughly the same steps in their growing process:

  1. Purchase 
  2. Soak or Plant
  3. Grow
  4. Harvest
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Step one: Buying Your Seeds

Before we continue, let's first look at the unique growing process from seed to harvest. The first step in this process is obviously purchasing your desired seeds. There are tons of websites out there that offer different features like organic seeds such as Johnny's Selected Seeds. If you're looking to support a local company checkout Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) based in Decorah, Iowa. SSE is a non-profit organization founded in 1975 with over 13,000 members and over 20,000 varieties of seed.

{For those of you that are serious about growing mircrogreens, checkout how to become a member and have access to vegetable, herb, floral, and tree seeds. And if growing isn't your thing but you want to get involved, you can donate here and help support your local farmers.}

Step two: Preparing Sprouts 

Now, before we get completely carried away with becoming a professional microgreen farmer, let's learn the second step of growing your own sprouts. After purchasing your sprout seeds (whatever type they may be) you will need to soak them for a specific allotment of time. For example, pea shoots need up to 24 hours of complete submersion before they can grow properly. Most packaging will provide you with this information when you purchase your seeds. 

Planting Microgreens

This portion of the process has some room for flexibility. You can either invest in high-quality, large growing trays or you can simply use any clean container you have laying around. You could even checkout these fiber growing trays that allow for even more flexibility. Here's what you'll need to get started:

  Tray, container, or pot.

Tray, container, or pot.

  Soil or potting mixture

Soil or potting mixture

  Water

Water

  Light

Light

For soil you will need to either purchase or make your own using a combination of ingredients like compost, sand, and moss to give your microgreens what they need to thrive. 

Like any other plant, light is very important for your little seedlings as well. Since microgreens and sprouts grow indoors you will need to have an abundance of light available to them whether sunlight or artificial. It is possible for your greens to get too much sunlight so watch out for discoloration on their leaves and keep a spray bottle close by for when they look a little wilted. Other than that, the growing process is fairly simple and you can watch your little seedlings go from soil to fully grown greens ready to be harvested!

Step Four: Harvesting

After your 10-14 days are up your greens should be ready to harvest and eat. For both sprouts and microgreens simply cut their stems (keeping in mind both the leaves and stems are edible) and be sure to give them a quick rinse before eating but other than that your job is done! 

Since microgreens are harvested within two weeks of being planted, they are the perfect compliment to indoor greens such as herbs and can be grown all year with a quick turn around. These tiny greens are also ideal for those of you that do not have a lot of space because microgreens have a high yield-to-space ratio. And as you have read, growing microgreens can be as small or large of a project as you want them to be. If you simply want a relaxing way to grow your own veggies and enhance your Sunday-night dinners or if you want to become a professional, microgreens can be a perfect fit for you. 


Keep checking in to this blog for more great posts and updates on local events on how you can live healthy and eat local! Checkout these other posts for more on microgreens:

Health Benefits

A Local Microgreens Grower

Five Other-Than-Salad Recipes