Are microgreens and sprouts the same thing? The terms are often used interchangeably, but there are differences between them.
Both microgreens and sprouts are young plants harvested shortly after the emergence of leaves and before they mature into adult plants.
Microgreens are grown in soil or a growing medium, and they are harvested after their first set of leaves (called the cotyledons) emerge. They can also be grown to the the true leaf stage. It can be anywhere from 7 days to 5 weeks for them to reach their maturity date.
These beautiful shoots are tender and flavorful with a lot of different culinary uses.
Some common microgreen varieties include:
Sprouts, on the other hand, are seeds that have just germinated. They are grown in a moist environment without soil, most often a glass mason jar. They’re used before any true leaves emerge. This only takes 2 or 3 days.
You’ll notice that sprouts have a much longer root and tiny leaves, unlike the microgreens which have a longer stem with fuller leaves.
Some popular sprout varieties include:
Unlike microgreens, sprouts are consumed as a whole plant, including the seed, root, and shoot.
Growing Tips for Microgreens
In our experience with growing microgreens, we have found that using soil is best to grow them. Plants are meant to be in the soil.
To learn what the best type of soil for microgreens is, read this post or purchase our pdf guide with our own unique recipe that we have used in our business for many years.
To have successful microgreens with maximum flavor and quality, you need good soil. While other methods will allow microgreens to grow, they are never as flavorful or healthy as soil-grown microgreens are.
Here are some basic steps for growing microgreens.
Water: Proper watering is crucial for healthy microgreen growth. When it comes to watering the soil, we recommend misting the surface once or twice a day while they are germinating.
As they grow and you put them under a grow light, it’s important to focus on bottom watering so that the roots are absorbing the water and nourishing the plant. This prevents mold and other diseases from affecting your microgreens.
Maintaining adequate soil moisture is important, but avoid overwatering as it could lead to mold or rot issues.
Light: Microgreens need adequate light for photosynthesis, and providing a consistent light source is key. The best option is full spectrum LED grow lights positioned at about 12 inches from the top of your plants.
Making sure microgreens receive around 12 hours of light every day will enable optimal growth.
Air Ventilation: Proper ventilation helps reduce potential mold growth and supports overall plant health. Having a room with good air circulation or using fans to ensure regular air exchange is essential.
This helps maintain a stable environment and ensures the microgreens receive enough fresh air. A word of caution: don’t leave a fan blowing directly on the microgreens all day. This will dry out your soil and can stunt young seedlings.
Direct your fan so that the air will move around the room, making the air flow more like an outdoor setting.
Soil: Choosing the appropriate growing medium is an important decision. High-quality, fine-textured seedling soil with adequate drainage is good for microgreens. However, if you want to have the very best soil, use our recipe in this article.
To be honest, sprouts are less work than microgreens. The first step is to soak the seeds in a clean mason jar for about 8 hours. Make sure you fill the jar to the top.
Rinse the seeds a couple of times after you’ve soaked them and place the jar on a stand so that it sits at a 45 degree angle. The angle is important because you want excess water to drain off or else the sprouts can rot.
During the 2 or 3 days the sprouts are growing, you need to rinse them in the morning and again in the evening. Make sure to keep them angled so the water doesn’t sit in the jar.
Sprouts do not require a grow light, but you should keep them in a well-lit area during the day, such as a kitchen or near a window.
Harvesting microgreens is a straightforward process that can happen once they’ve reached a height of 1-3 inches, around 7-14 days after sowing for the more easy to grow varieties.
To harvest, simply use a pair of clean scissors to snip the stems just above the soil level. Since microgreens are delicate, handle them gently during the harvesting process to maintain their vibrant flavor and texture.
There’s no need to rinse them after cutting.
Flavor and Taste: One of the main reasons microgreens are so popular is because of the intense flavors they possess. From the spicy kick of radish microgreens to the refreshing citrus notes of lemon basil, the variety of flavors is impressive.
They make great toppings to cooked dishes but can be used on so many things. Microgreens can even be an ingredient in certain recipes, such as smoothies or soups.
Salads: Microgreens make an excellent addition to salads due to their diverse flavors and textures. Using a combination of microgreens creates a visually appealing and delicious salad. Simply mix with your favorite greens and dressing for a quick meal.
Sandwiches: Adding microgreens to our sandwiches gives them a burst of flavor and a crispy texture. Use them as a substitute for lettuce or as an additional layer of greens.
Smoothies: Toss a handful of microgreens into a smoothie. They mix well with fruit, yogurt, and ice.
Soups: Microgreens can be used to garnish our soups or sprinkled on top for a touch of texture and flavor. They make an especially attractive garnish for creamy soups.
Herb replacement: In some cases, microgreens can be a replacement for their full-grown counterparts, like using cilantro or basil microgreens in recipes that call for traditional herbs.
So, microgreens are different from sprouts. Both offer a unique texture and flavor to whatever you add them to. If you want to spend less money and time on growing, you’d likely be happier with sprouts in a jar.
You might be tempted to use coffee grounds in your planting soil because you heard they’re good for microgreens. However, are they actually beneficial for growing? The simple answer is no. Here’s why.
Coffee Grounds are Acidic
Coffee grounds are too acidic and add no value to the soil whatsoever. In fact, you will find that they actually stunt the microgreens once they germinate. The acidity destroys the beneficial life in the soil.
It is true that microgreens do best in slightly acidic soil, but the peat moss alone adds the acidity they need. Even if you aren’t using peat moss in your mix, coffee is just too much and will not benefit your microgreens. There is no nutritional value to plants from coffee grounds.
Coffee Grounds are Sprayed
Almost all the coffee that is sold is highly sprayed with strong pesticides. It is one of the most sprayed crops in the world. If you add those grounds into your soil, whether for microgreens or in your garden, you’re introducing all those chemicals into the growing media.
That means the microgreens or plants will absorb those into themselves. They take up nutrients through the soil via the roots. And if chemicals or pesticides are present, that means your plants have them too.
Even if you buy 100% organic coffee and use the grounds from it, there is still the extra acidity the microgreens simply don’t want or need. Here at our farm, we never use coffee grounds in our soil for anything we plant and see great results.
Curing garlic is an easy process. The reason garlic needs to be cured is so that it will last longer in storage. Plan for an extra couple of weeks before you’ll be able to use your freshly harvested garlic.
Where to Cure It
You will want to cure it in a dry, warm place for best results. If you live in a drier region, it can be easier to find a place to put it.
Make sure it isn’t in direct sunlight but in day-long shade. For instance, a shed, porch, barn, or any dry, warm space with good air circulation. Since you harvest in the summertime, the temperatures should lend themselves to helping the curing process.
If you are in a more humid climate, make sure there is ample circulation like where a breeze blows or a place with a fan to use when the humidity is high. The garlic will still cure but it may take longer. Typically, 2 to 4 weeks longer.
We live in the Pacific Northwest, and we use our front wrap around porch after harvesting to cure in July. This works well for our garlic.
Collecting the Garlic
You will want to keep the leaves on the garlic and put about 10 garlics per bundle. Tie the stems with twine tight enough so none of the cloves drop out when hung.
You can also use chicken wire or hardware cloth placed over a wood frame or other solid base and lay the garlic on it to cure. The important part is to have good circulation.
It takes about 2 weeks for this process unless you’re in a highly humid climate, as noted above.
They are ready to be cut when the clove skins and leaves are crispy. At this point you trim all the roots off and cut the stem about two inches above the bulb. If you cut it too short, it will not store properly, and you will have to use it within 2 weeks.
That’s it! Your home grown garlic will have a far better flavor and value than anything you could buy in a store. Try it for yourself and you’ll see the difference.
Depending on the type of garlic you plant, there will be signs that the bulbs are heading to harvest time. And how nice of them to give us these clues because, after all, how would we know when just the right time is here?
Whether it’s a hard neck or soft neck type makes it a little different, but in general they’re the same. Let’s talk about exactly how to harvest garlic.
Hard Neck Type
If you planted the hard neck type in the fall (October-November) then by March or so you were blessed with short shoots coming up in your garden. Then by mid to late June or early July your garlic shoots have grown plenty of leaves.
Soon to follow will be some tubular shoots that look like a long string bean with a small a bulbous pointy head called scapes. You will remove these scapes by cleanly cutting them off as far down the stalk as you can from each plant.
Enjoy stir frying these with whatever other veggies you like to stir fry. They are delicious.
With the scapes gone, start watching for the leaves to turn brown at the bottom and maybe a little at the tips too. Typically, about a month later.
When you have three leaves doing this, then harvest them. Some may be ready a little sooner than others.
You can reach into the soil and scoop up the garlic with your fingers around the bulb so as not to separate the stem from the bulb and lose some of the papery skin surrounding it. This is how we do it.
Alternately, you can use a flat or slightly curved harvesting shovel or fork, being careful not to poke the bulbs and damage them. Go below the root section and as you scoop the bulb up, grasp the stem at the base and pull as you scoop.
Soft Neck Type
In about mid-June or early July you will see leaves begin to turn brown and fall over. This signals that the garlic is ready to harvest. If there are a few that do not look ready to harvest yet, you can wait on those for a few more days or so.
Generally, though, if they were planted at the same time, they will likely be ready around the same time.
Harvest them using the same method as you would the hard neck type. But your work isn’t actually done yet.
Microgreens have become very popular in last decade. These tiny greens have lots of flavor and many people are incorporating them into their daily life. You can easily grow them indoors with relatively little equipment.
You might wonder exactly what the secret to growing microgreens is. There are only a few basic things you need to learn to get started. It all comes down to:
Organic, well-draining fine soil
Full Spectrum LED Grow Light (6400K) and Adequate Water
Good air flow and consistent temperatures
Choosing Your Seeds
When starting with microgreens, be sure to purchase high-quality seeds from a reliable source to ensure healthy growth, ideally organic but at least non-GMO. We prefer Johnny’s Seeds or High Mowing Seeds for their quality and performance.
Seedling trays work perfectly for microgreens cultivation. We recommend these 5×5″ tray inserts from Bootstrap Farmer for their durability and ease of use. Place them in a 1020 flat to accommodate your blocks and have a place for water.
Use Organic Soil
Although there are many types of growing media for microgreens, including paper towels and hemp mats, you will never get the same flavor or quality compared to growing them in soil. This is simply the way that nature is designed to work.
Plants need to be grown in soil if they are to reach their full potential. You can use seedling soil (NOT potting soil) and have good results. Seedling soil is very fine and airy, allowing the roots to have room to grow and breathe. This is important for microgreens success.
Make sure the soil is moist and pleasantly damp but not soggy at the time of planting.
If you progress further with growing microgreens and want to have the very best soil you can, read our post about the best microgreens soil.
The Importance of Light & Water
Providing adequate light and water is essential for the successful growth of microgreens. Using a grow light is vital for a good microgreens crop. It’s true that they can be grown in a windowsill using sunlight, but the natural light is filtered and too far away for it to be effective.
You need a strong light source that is close enough to the surface of the microgreens to provide the key to unlocking their potential. Growing microgreens without a good light will make them thin, pale, and leggy (tall stems, little leaves) no matter how good your soil is.
You absolutely will see better results with a grow light. When selecting a grow light, choose a full-spectrum, 6400K LED grow light. This type of light is made with the right distribution of wavelengths to encourage the best growth possible.
Monitoring and managing water levels is crucial, as both insufficient and excessive watering can lead to stunted growth or even seedling death. Generally, microgreens should be watered once a day, maintaining consistently moist soil without allowing it to become soggy or waterlogged.
During watering, pour the water into the bottom of your growing tray so that the roots can absorb it up to the top. You can use a spray bottle to mist the soil when they’re first getting started. After they stand up more, they’ll need bottom water.
Soon, you’ll have a thriving garden of fresh herbs and vegetables at your fingertips.
Good Air Flow & Consistent Temperatures
Microgreens require a steady air flow. The easiest way to make sure that happens is to run a small fan to keep the air moving. However, you don’t want to blow the fan directly on the microgreens constantly. That will make them dry out and stunt the growth of the delicate seedlings.
Keep the growing temperatures between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit as much as possible. Ambient room temperature is usually fine unless it’s very hot. If you have a separate growing area that’s not in your house, you may need to regulate the temperature first before having a successful microgreens crop.
When germinating microgreens, we always recommend a heat mat so you that the sprouting is more uniform. Once they get planted and you put them on the heat mat, the temperature should be set to 75 degrees. The easiest microgreens, such as kale, arugula, radish, cabbage, mizuna, etc. take 2-3 days to be ready for light.
If you don’t have a heat mat, you can still get a good crop. However, they may take several more days to pop up and there may be sections that don’t germinate. The consistent temperature of the heat mat ensures that even when it gets cold at night (or even during the day!), your seedlings won’t be interrupted in their process of growing, confusing the plants.
Consistent temperatures are key to having a successful microgreens yield.
When and How to Harvest
Microgreens are relatively fast-growing and can usually be harvested within 7 to 10 days after planting the seeds. For your personal use, this can vary somewhat depending on what you prefer.
It’s always best to just cut the amount you need for that time and leave the rest of the microgreens undisturbed. This allows you to have the best flavor and quality every time you use them.
Hold and Snip: Gently hold a small bunch of microgreens and, using your scissors, snip them off just above the soil line. Try not cut too close to the soil (unless you want some dirt or debris) but don’t go too high on the stem either.
Salads: Microgreens add a delightful punch of flavor, texture, and nutrition to your salads. Try mixing different varieties for a colorful and tasty salad that’s packed with nutrients.
Sandwiches: Whether used as a garnish or a replacement for lettuce, microgreens will elevate your sandwiches with their unique flavors and textures.
Soups: Sprinkle a handful of microgreens on top of your soups to add extra vibrancy and subtle flavor.
Smoothies: Incorporate microgreens into your smoothies by blending them with other fresh fruits and vegetables for added flavor.
Can You Regrow Microgreens After They’ve Been Cut?
We hear this question a lot. Once you’ve cut microgreens, can they be grown a second time and cut for use again?
Basically, the answer is both yes and no. You can let a second crop grow after you’ve snipped off your harvest, but the results will be slower and you may notice less flavor. This is because the nutrients that were in the soil gave so much to the microgreens you already cut. With less to work with, the plants can’t take up as many nutrients.
Regrowing microgreens will often give you less flavor and they may be tougher than the first ones. Our recommendation is to plant fresh ones every time so you get the most out of what you grow.
It’s easy to grow microgreens at home and use them in your meals. They’re versatile, flavorful, and beautiful to look at. You don’t need a lot of equipment to grow them and they are a great project for school-kids.
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