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.
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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Microgreens have become very popular among chefs as a way to elevate presentation and taste.
If you’re selling microgreens, you definitely want to know what the top choices of microgreens are that chefs want. There are several varieties that tend to be on the favorite list of a chef.
The most common microgreens that consistently prove to be a favorite with restaurants are:
Red Veined Sorrel
Let’s talk about these along with tips for growing them.
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With delicate stems and bright magenta colors, there’s no mistaking the appeal of amaranth for chefs. The flavor is mild and earthy, often used on salad dishes, salmon, pasta, or quinoa. It adds an amazing color pop to an otherwise plain dish.
When growing red amaranth, be sure to give it adequate water but don’t soak it. They aren’t water guzzlers like some of their cousins (i.e., radishes). Simply put enough water in your flat to allow the roots to soak up the moisture and keep the edges from drying out.
The best length of grow time is 14 days, with about 2 days for germination (blackout time).
This peppery salad green is excellent in the micro stage because it lacks the bitterness of its full-grown counterpart (or even baby leaf arugula). You’re left with a spice that gives just a little kick.
One of the easiest microgreens to grow, you can master this brassica quickly and grow beautiful trays with a good organic soil mix containing perlite or vermiculite, temperatures around 65-70 degrees, and a good grow light. Give it enough moisture to keep your soil from drying out, but don’t water-log it either.
It can be sold at the cotyledon (first leaf, like the picture below) or true leaf stage (above). Either way, the end result will be a vibrant microgreen that restaurants can use.
A classic favorite, this aromatic herb is sure to be in demand. The most common varieties are genovese, bi-color, purple, and Thai basil. Each one is slightly different in flavor and appearance. Genovese is one of the most common for microgreens with a traditional basil flavor and cupped, medium-green leaves. Excellent for Italian dishes.
Thai basil is a medium green with a savory yet spicy-sweet flavor with a distinct pungent aroma. It provides herbaceous notes that can round out a dish.
Purple basil is exactly what is sounds like. Pointed purple leaves with their sweet and spicy flavor can be just the thing for any recipe that needs a basil taste, adding to a summery cocktail or used as a beautiful dessert garnish. It’s particularly used in Asian cuisine. Varieties such as Red Rubin, Dark Opal (which has a slight variegation of green and purple), or Amethyst are good choices for microgreens.
And of course, bi-color basil. This is our personal favorite to grow because they’re not only reliable performers, their appearance is unique and never fails to catch your attention. The centers of the pointy leaves are dark purple and change into a soft green at the tips. Out of all the varieties we grow, bi-color basil is at the top for flavor.
The cooler the temperature, the more purple develops on the basil.
When watering basil, keep in mind that this is an herb and therefore is not happy when you overwater it. We have found that lightly watering it daily on the roots and using a humidity dome when it is first placed under the light is sufficient to make this microgreen happy. Of course, while it’s establishing itself, you’ll need to keep the top moist.
You can leave the humidity dome off all day after about 4-5 days. We recommend putting it on top overnight while the grow light is off to retain moisture.
Exactly how much water to use depends on the temperature of the room and your exact soil and growing conditions. If it feels too heavy when you pick up the tray, do not add water to it or you can easily turn your beautiful basil yellow.
At the same time, keep it moist enough that the roots have water to draw on. The tray should not feel too light when you pick it up.
Basil microgreens reach the true leaf stage in 3 weeks, although you will see those leaves emerge sooner. The height is critical here, which is why you need to allow 3 weeks for them to reach their peak.
The appeal of carrot microgreens is their frilly true leaves and excellent flavor. Nantes types are best for microgreens. We use carrot microgreens from Johnny’s Seeds and find them to be popular both as a garnish and an ingredient.
You’ll need to sow them thickly enough to be dense in your tray. The height of your tray should be a little over 1 inch. After seeding, spray them evenly with water and coat the carrot seeds with a light layer of your growing soil. Cover with parchment paper and an upside down 1020 tray or blackout dome on a heat mat.
Continue watering the soil over the top every day. You’ll notice thin stems beginning to pop out of the soil after about 7 days. Transfer underneath a grow light and leave the tray uncovered. Carrots need to be kept evenly moist on the roots but can easily become waterlogged, so don’t overdo it.
Remember that the top needs to be misted with a spray every day to help the seedlings get a good start. They will be ready at about 16 days. By then the leaves will have filled out and provided some frill to the rest of what looks like grass.
One of the most common and aromatic herbs, cilantro microgreens are prized for their flavor without the bitter aftertaste of a full size plant. Use split-seed cilantro to get a faster and more even germination with no soaking needed.
Cilantro prefers to germinate on the heat for about 6 or 7 days before being transferred to the light. They should have small white tails emerging from the seeds. Do not cover them with soil. After setting them under your grow light, keep them cool and moderately moist. Using a humidity dome will ensure they don’t dry out too quickly, but you’ll need to leave it off for a few hours a day to let in air flow.
Water the cilantro on top each day while first under the light (about 4 or 5 days). You’ll want to focus on bottom watering when the stems start gaining a little height. Keep in mind that herbs are more sensitive to the amount of water they receive, so don’t go crazy with it.
By 14 days they should be tall, dense, and the true leaves should have emerged. This is the best time to sell your cilantro, before the true leaves grow too big because the flavor starts to become more bitter if you wait too long.
One of the most unusual microgreens, nasturtiums are actually flowers, so the term “nasturtium shoots” is more accurate. However, they are one of the most in-demand items from restaurants because of their peppery yet sweet flavor.
To grow these, we recommend using the nasturtiums seeds by Johnny’s so that you’re more likely to have success. These seeds are already prepared for you (no need to nick them) and are reliable to grow as shoots.
Soak the seeds for at least 2 hours before planting. You can go all the way up to 4 hours. This will soften them just enough to prepare them for the growing media. Cover with a light layer of soil over the top once you’re done and place them on the heat mat. Use parchment paper over the soil and fold it down on the sides to keep it in place. An upside down 1020 flat or blackout dome will need to be placed on top.
Nasturtiums begin to emerge out of the soil after about 7 days. They may seem to be thin at first, but be patient because more will pop up soon. Keep them under a grow light and give them water when first taken off the heat mat. Continue to bottom water the roots lightly every day and only give them a deeper watering every 3 or 4 days.
Peas are such an easy and beautiful crop to grow that you’ll likely try this as one of your first microgreens. Our favorite variety is dwarf grey sugar peas because they have a denser, more bushy look and great taste. There’s less height on the stem and more leaves that start closer to the bottom, which chefs have consistently told us they prefer.
Simply soak your seeds overnight (we use 1 cup in a flat) and let them sprout for 2 days in a glass mason jar with sprouting lid. During those two days, rinse them in the morning and in the afternoon, then set them at an angle on a table (or use a stand for sprouting jars). Once the white tails appear and are about 1/4″ long, it’s time to plant them.
Be sure to use a deep flat for these. 2 1/4″ deep allows the roots to have room for nutrient uptake.
Cover the seeds with a layer of soil and place on the heat mat. We use parchment paper and then add weight to the top using small rocks placed in disposable tray inserts. Spread it out evenly over the flat. You only need enough weight to give it some pressure and the peas will germinate better using this method.
Water them on top daily (be sure to remove the weights first). Once they’re pushing up against the weight and you can see the little white stems, it’s time to move them under the grow light. They’ll grow quickly from this point on.
Give them a generous amount of water from the bottom so the roots can do their thing. Misting the top is a good idea when it’s first off the heat. Peas are dense and take more water than smaller microgreens would so make sure you use a little more for them.
By 12-14 days they’re at maturity and ready for sale.
Similar to broccoli, there are two main reasons why purple kohlrabi microgreens are favored by chefs. One: they have gorgeous purple stems and green leaves that turn into a deep purple as the true leaves begin to reveal themselves. And two: the flavor and texture is just right not to be overpowering but still bring a hint of root vegetable flavor.
They’re not difficult to grow at all. Use the same method of parchment paper and a blackout dome over the top as mentioned already placed on a heat mat. Keep watering them daily. The seeds should pop up and be ready for light within 2 or 3 days.
Kohlrabi is a hardy plant and asks for nothing beyond moderate water, a grow light, and cooler air to thrive. They will be ready to sell in 21 days if you want to take them to the true leaf stage. If you want the cotyledons only, sell them at 14 days.
Another popular and very easy microgreen, you may want to try radishes first if you’ve never grown microgreens. Although the seeds are larger, you do not need to soak them. Follow the same procedure above with watering the seeds at the time of planting and using parchment paper on top to retain moisture.
Radish microgreens also germinate more evenly with weight the same as pea shoots (or sunflowers). Our weights consist of small rocks placed into individual tray inserts spread out over the top (the parchment paper is below it).
With daily watering of the seeds, you can expect the radish microgreens to start standing up after 2 days. They are now ready for light. Like peas, radishes are more thirsty than other microgreens, so use a little more in your flat when bottom watering.
We prefer to sell our radish microgreens when they reach 7-10 days. If you wait longer than 10 days, they can get too big for your customers. This is especially important if you’re selling them live instead of cut.
A stunning red Asian green, the rounded leaves of red mizuna microgreens will go with a wide variety of dishes. They have a pleasant, mild flavor and the true leaves are very appealing to chefs.
Although they start out green, the leaves quickly turn red. In very cool temperatures, they turn an even deeper shade of red but the stems remain a pale green.
Don’t be intimidated by these beauties. They’re very easy to grow and always perform exceptionally well. We prefer the Red Kingdom variety from Johnny’s Seeds because the color is very uniform and the microgreens never disappoint.
Use an organic seedling soil mix or follow our soil recipe and fill your tray. Seed them just enough not to be crowded. Mist the top with water, place on a heat mat, and cover with parchment paper and an upside down 1020 tray or blackout dome.
They should sprout within 2-3 days and be ready for transferring underneath your grow light. Keep watering them from the bottom as they grow, although you’ll want to mist the top until the seedlings have established themselves and the soil surface doesn’t dry out too quickly.
The amount of water should be moderate, not soaking them with too much. But mizuna does need quite a bit moisture to get a good start. Continue bottom watering until they reach maturity. If you sell them at the true leaf stage, that will be 14 days.
Red Veined Sorrel
One of the most difficult microgreens to master, red veined sorrel is better to try after you’ve gotten a feel for the easier microgreens. This plant is actually in the buckwheat family and the name “sorrel” is translated as “sour”, and rightly so. The flavor is like a lemon.
You need patience to grow red veined sorrel microgreens because it’s just a slow-growing crop no matter how good your growing methods are. 5-6 weeks is necessary to cultivate the leaves to the proper size.
Using organic seedling soil or our own recipe, plant the seeds of sorrel VERY carefully. It is all too easy to over-seed the tray like we did on first attempt. We tossed so many in there that the seedlings grew about 1/4 inch before completely stopping and turning yellow with no changes at all. Uh, yeah, that wasn’t going to work…
Fortunately we learned our lesson and began to use the bare minimum of seeds. Being so tiny in size, you really have to watch to see where they land to make sure you’ll get an even distribution. We use .05 grams in one of the individual 5×5 inserts that we grow in and carefully spread them out. There are total of 8 blocks that are equivalent to one 1020 flat.
While that doesn’t sound or look like enough as it begins to germinate, sorrel microgreens fill out the longer they grow. Seedlings appear and fill more space. That’s why it’s so hard to judge exactly the right amount you will need until you try it yourself.
Water sorrel sparingly but keep the seeds moist so they don’t dry out before they’re established. Use the same procedure for the heat mat and blackout dome, but expect the germination to take a week or more.
You will see thin white stems beginning to emerge, although more will pop up after you transfer them to the grow light. Mist them enough on the top to keep the seeds from drying out every day. As they grow, give them a spray on the roots, just enough to maintain moisture. A humidity dome at night will help prevent them from drying out.
The leaves are still small at 4 weeks, which is why we recommend waiting until the 5th or 6th week to sell them. By then the true leaves have broadened and make more of a pop when used by the restaurant.
Shiso is an herb with quite a bit of versatility. Pointed, aromatic leaves make it look exceptional on desserts. Red shiso has a cinnamon-clove like taste while Britton shiso is more like a chocolate mint. Britton shiso microgreens are green on the top but red on the underside of the leaves.
Both are favorites with chefs for desserts, salads, sushi wraps, or as a garnish. The aromas of both types are irresistible to the senses.
We recommend the same procedure of misting, covering them with parchment paper, and then using a blackout dome or upside down 1020 flat over the top.
Shiso is relatively easy to grow. Britton shiso microgreens will germinate more quickly than red shiso will, but both turn out equally beautiful. Water a little more heavily in the beginning and then taper it down so that you’re just maintaining moisture.
Again, seed this microgreen carefully. We use .65 grams of Britton shiso in one 5×5 individual tray insert and .20 grams in an insert for red shiso. Britton shiso will be up and ready for light after about 5 days while red shiso needs over a week.
Once they have germinated, it’s very helpful to keep a humidity dome over the tray for a day or two so that the seedlings can take root and begin to grow. Red shiso microgreens will be ready by about day 25. The cooler the temperature, the deeper the red.
Britton shiso is a little faster and can be ready by 18 days, although you can grow them up to 25 days.
How to Grow Microgreens for Restaurants
As growers, we understand the importance of providing quality microgreens for restaurants that help elevate their dishes and this is a list of some of the most popular microgreens chefs use. But how do you grow them to have consistent quality?
To start, we choose high-quality seeds, ideally organic but at least non-GMO.
We use a quality soil mix that will provide nutrients for the microgreens throughout their growth cycle. With the right amount of water (which varies to some extent based on the individual type of microgreen), a good, full-spectrum grow light, adequate air flow, and a moderate temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit you’ll see a beautiful end result that will appeal to chefs.
Our farm chooses to sell living (uncut) microgreens only. This means that we never harvest the greens before selling them. We chose to do that because the quality and flavor of live microgreens can’t be outdone. The minute microgreens are cut, they start to degrade.
The longer they’re stored (especially if they’re washed), the more they deteriorate. If you choose to harvest your microgreens and package them for sale, you should make them as freshly cut as possible before going to your customers.
That being said, the advantages of a live tray of microgreens are excellent quality and taste. Chefs have often commented to us that there is a real difference in our live greens and they love the quality. It saves us money from buying packaging materials and time because we aren’t cutting them ourselves.
If you practice growing these microgreens that are popular for chefs, you’ll succeed in expanding your business. Plus you enhance your own skills as a grower.
Do chefs have a favorite microgreen they like in your area?
If you’re familiar with microgreens you know how flavorful they are. You don’t have to buy them at a store. To save money and get fresher microgreens, you can grow them at home with a little bit of equipment and time. We’ll share 5 tips to make growing microgreens at home successful and as beautiful as they can be.
Microgreens are young, edible plants that are harvested just after the first leaves have developed. They are packed with flavor, making them a popular addition to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes.
To grow microgreens successfully, the first step is to have a great soil base for the seeds to germinate. The seeds then sprout and develop into young plants, which are harvested within 1-3 weeks (depending on the specific variety).
Successful microgreens growth requires these 5 components:
Temperature: Most microgreen seeds perform best when germinating at 75°F. This where a heat mat becomes very useful. After being transferred to a grow light, temperatures between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal.
Light: While germinating, the microgreens need to be in the dark (more on this below). After popping up, you should immediately move them to a grow light. Read our post about the right kind of light.
Water: Seeds need water to germinate. They absorb water through their seed coat, which softens and swells, allowing the embryo to emerge. Once they are under a grow light, you will bottom water the tray. The water levels will vary depending on the specific variety, but you will need consistent moisture.
Air Flow: After moving them under the light, keep good air flow in the overall growing space and cooler temperatures for best results.
Let’s explain all of this in more detail, starting with the germination of your microgreens.
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Understanding Microgreens Germination
When we’re talking about germination, it’s the simple way of describing the process by which a seed begins to grow into a plant. It is an essential step in the production of microgreens, as it is one of the factors determines the quality and quantity of the final product.
During germination, the seed absorbs water and nutrients from the soil, which activates enzymes that break down the food stored in the seed. This process produces energy that fuels the growth of the plant.
The length of the germination period depends on several factors, including the type of seed, temperature, humidity, and light. Some seeds, such as radish and broccoli along with other brassicas, germinate in as little as two days. Others, such as nasturtiums or shiso, take longer.
Use Soil to Grow Microgreens
As we mentioned in the introduction, the right type of soil is critical to the overall success of your microgreens. This blog article discusses that in more detail.
Hydroponically grown microgreens can never compare to the flavor or quality of soil-grown. This is because plants are designed to grow in soil, where the intricate web of life teeming with numerous things can work with the plant to reach its potential.
We are not discrediting the use of hydroponic methods. We simply feel that soil is what it’s all about, and you will never get a better taste or appearance than microgreens grown in soil. So for our purposes in this post, we are only referring to growing in soil.
Use a 1020 flat that is about 2″ tall if you’re growing microgreens longer than 10 days. For shorter growth cycles, you can use a shallow flat. Radishes and peas always perform better with deeper soil.
To keep it simple, you could simply use the deeper flat. This 1020 mesh tray by Bootstrap Farmer allows you to have a sturdy, reusable flat to fill. Use this secondary flat with no holes as your watering flat. That way you can lift the tray with the microgreens and water from the bottom, allowing the roots to absorb the moisture. This is much more important than moistening the top soil.
If you are buying pre-made soil mix, be sure to choose seedling soil with a pH of about 6.0. Something light and airy (rather than dense potting soil). Our own custom soil blend recipe allows us to make it in bulk amounts and save money, but if you’re only growing on a small scale for yourself a pre-made soil may be all you need.
Temperature for Germination & Growing
It’s important to note that a heat mat, especially one with a temperature-controlled thermostat, makes a difference in how well microgreens begin to sprout. If you’re a business or want to start a microgreens business, you’d be wise to invest in a quality heat mat.
Our heat mats are set to 75 degrees. If it’s very warm where you live or the humidity is high, you may only need to set the temperature to 72 degrees.
This one by Vivosun is very useful and easy to set up.
The higher heat is only necessary for germination. After the seeds are sprouting and showing their white root tails, you need to get them under the light as soon as possible. Allowing them to grow for too long while on a heat mat (especially with the dark cover) causes the plants to search for light.
That means they will grow taller too fast (leggy is the word used to describe it). The stems will be longer, but there’s little strength in the greens themselves because they weren’t exposed to light soon enough.
So don’t leave them in the dark longer than necessary for the sprouting to begin. Putting them under grow lights make the microgreens stronger faster and develop better color and appearance.
As they grow, try to keep the room less than 75 degrees. The closer to 65 degrees, the better. You may need to set up a small fan on a low speed to make sure there’s enough air flow. Don’t let the fan blow directly over the microgreens because that will dry them out too quickly.
Instead, aim the fan so that it will promote a steady air flow around the greens but not straight at them. For example, you may need to position the fan diagonally to make the air flow begin in the right place. It depends on how the growing shelf is positioned and where it’s placed.
Now that we have the temperature explained, let’s talk about light.
What Type of Grow Light Is Best?
For microgreens to grow well, you need a quality LED grow light. Don’t just choose any “grow light”. Make sure it is full-spectrum. This means that the wavelength of the light is designed for optimal growth of the plants.
We recommend full spectrum, 6500K LED grow lights from HTG Supply. This strip light is not heavy or hard to put up but will allow microgreens to have the bright light they need. It’s also energy efficient. Use at least 2 of these lights above your flat(s) at a height of 12-14″ away from the top of your greens.
Seed companies like these have a good reputation for quality. This is essential when growing microgreens and taking them to the finish.
Seeding the Tray (Density)
When you spread the seeds out over the flat, you don’t want to crowd them in so much that they end up competing for room as they grow. If they’re too close together, the plants will compete for nutrients and become stunted.
Keep in mind that microgreens are individual plants. Each of the seeds that sprout require nutrition from the soil and too many close together simply will not work. It’s a balancing act of just how many seeds you need in a flat. It also depends on the specific type of plant and size of the seeds.
Aim for an even distribution across the flat without the seeds touching each other. Over time, you’ll develop a feel for this. As you learn how much you need, a valuable tool is a little jewelry scale with precise measurements. You can weigh the seeds in a small paper cup or something similar so you know how much you need every time.
One of the most useful tools that saves us a lot of time and makes it easier to get the seeds even is this Vibro Hand Seeder from Johnny’s Seeds. The vibration level can be adjusted and allows the seeds to fall with a lot less work from you.
Watering & Covering the Flat
The moisture level of your soil should not be soggy when filling the flat. It should be moderately moist. After you spread the seeds, spray the whole flat evenly with a spray bottle or better yet, a pump hand sprayer.
Once you have sprayed the flat, cover it with a sheet of heavy duty parchment paper that extends over the edges of the flat. Tuck it under the flat to help retain moisture. Use an upside down empty 1020 flat over the top. Blocking out the light like this promotes germination, especially on the heat mat.
In the photo below, we have tucked the end of our parchment paper against the microgreen inserts we plant in. We use individual, 5×5″ tray inserts from Bootstrap Farmer so that we can mix different varieties into the same flat. They are available in shallow and deep heights.
After the parchment paper is secure, we place our upside down 1020 flat over the top. We tighten it over the edges of the tray inserts mentioned above. As shown, the end of the parchment can be tucked under the edge of your growing flat.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
If you notice poor germination in your microgreens, there may be a few things causing the issue. One common issue is using old or expired seeds. Use newer seeds if at all possible.
Another issue could be the temperature. Like we discussed, microgreens require warm temperatures to germinate, so make sure your growing area is at the proper temperature.
Under watering can also cause poor germination. Make sure to water your microgreens when the top layer of soil is dry. Be sure to pay attention to the corners and edges. Turn the flat to get an even distribution of water.
One common disease is damping off, which is caused by a fungus and can kill seedlings before they even reach maturity. The microgreen leaves can look soggy and crushed together. They wilt and fall over.
To prevent damping off, make sure to use clean containers and avoid overwatering. Especially be careful not to water from the top. A spray over the top is fine, but watering from above instead of at the roots makes it easy to give the plants too much water. The soil becomes bogged down and the roots (which start just under the soil) are drowning.
If you notice any signs of disease, remove the affected plants immediately to prevent further spread. You can also sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon over the top of your soil at the time of planting to stop unwanted fungal growth from happening. Just use enough to spread a thin layer of “dust” over them.
Harvesting and Usage of Microgreens
If you’ve watered the microgreens just right they will continue growing until they’re ready for harvest. The exact time to harvest depends on which microgreens you’re growing.
Cabbage family greens like arugula, kale, kohlrabi, etc. will be ready for use when they are still at the cotyledon (first leaves) stage, about 7-10 days. You can grow them to the true leaf stage if they are in deeper soil, but it will be 2-3 weeks before that occurs. They’re more tender at the cotyledon stage.
It’s best to stick with these easier microgreens until you feel comfortable with the process. If you decide you’re ready to to try other types of microgreens that are more complicated to grow, remember that many of them take at least 3 weeks to grow to their ideal harvest stage. Red veined sorrel is one of the slowest microgreens, taking about 6 weeks to reach maturity.
To harvest microgreens, simply use a pair of sharp scissors or a sharp knife to cut the stems just above the soil line. We recommend only harvesting what you need and using it right away. Leave the rest of the flat intact and keep cutting as you need.
That means fresher, tastier greens for you and it will last much longer being left in the soil than cut and stored in a refrigerator. Use them on salads, as a garnish for dishes, toppings on burgers and pizza, mixed into omelets or egg-bites, or even in smoothies.
In conclusion, the best microgreens you can grow at home are grown in soil, kept evenly moist from the bottom, have relatively steady temperatures to mature in, good air flow, and full-spectrum grow lights to give them optimal strength and appearance. Growing your own microgreens isn’t hard but requires some effort and practice.
That’s right, nasturtium microgreens are a thing. We know nasturtiums are a beautiful and edible flower that can add a peppery kick to salads. But you can also grow them specifically for their shoots and leaves.
Nasturtium microgreens (also called shoots) are a delicious addition to any dish, adding a unique spicy flavor and texture that is sure to impress.
This is particularly appealing to chefs who use it in a variety of ways for plate presentation. You don’t need to feel intimidated by the prospect of growing them for microgreens (shoots). With a little practice, you can grow them without any problems.
Are you nervous about trying to grow them? A lot of new growers are, but in this guide we will walk you through the steps of how to get a great yield of beautiful nasturtium microgreens. The main reason you will have success is getting the water levels just right.
So if you’re ready to learn how to grow nasturtiums for microgreens, read on.
Table of Contents
Always Soak the Seeds
To grow nasturtiums for shoots and get an even germination, it’s important to start with high-quality seeds. We recommend purchasing these seeds specifically for shoots from Johnny’s Seeds.
With those, you don’t need to “nick” or cut into the seeds to start germination. Remember, we’re not growing these into the flower stage. This is strictly for leaf growth.
Before planting the seeds, we always soak them for 2-4 hours using a mason jar and sprouting lid. They always come up more evenly in the soil when we do this.
Because we grow in individual, 5×5″ blocks from Bootstrap Farmer, we soak 165 grams of nasturtium seed. This spreads out over 8 blocks that fill one 1020 standard flat. You may need to soak more seeds if you are growing directly in a flat without using blocks.
With proper preparation, we begin to see the seeds germinate and emerge in 7-10 days.
Soil for Nasturtium Microgreens
Be sure to use a deep flat (about 2″) so that you have enough soil. The seeds are large and will require room for root growth.
After soaking, drain the water from the jar, rinse them once, and fill your tray. We use our own custom soil blend of peat moss, compost, and perlite, but any quality seedling soil mix that has an airy texture will work.
As you fill the flat (or 5×5 block inserts mentioned above), make sure to leave about a 1/4 inch of space from the top. This is important because you will need to cover the nasturtiums when you finish planting them.
Spread out the seeds evenly across the soil. Be sure there are enough to fill out as they grow but not so crowded that they will compete for space and stunt each other. The germination rate of nasturtiums is usually about 84%, so keep in mind that some seeds may not pop up.
When you’re done spreading them out, spray some water over the entire flat. Then take some more soil and fill it to the top. This is why we left some space when filling up. Once they’re covered, press the soil down lightly.
Transfer to a heat mat (if you have a thermostat control, set it to 74 degrees) and cover with a blackout dome. If you don’t have a blackout dome you can use heavy duty parchment paper that’s long enough to cover the edges and place an upside down 1020 flat on top.
Don’t be worried when it seems that nothing is happening. Keep the soil moist on top but don’t overdo it. Nasturtiums are flowers, which often take longer to pop out of the soil. An average germination time is 7 days even with a heat mat.
The first shoots will start to emerge and it will look like you’re going to get a spotty crop. Don’t panic! This is normal. More shoots will come out, I promise. We transfer our nasturtiums off the heat mat when there’s a decent amount of soil being pushed up, usually at day 8.
Leave the flat uncovered under your grow light and let the plants do their thing. The light encourages the new shoots and soon you’ll see a good crop of nasturtiums filling out the flat.
This is probably the hardest part of growing nasturtiums for microgreens. As a rule, they don’t like a ton of water. Yet, there has to be enough moisture to encourage the shoots to grow. So after you’ve put it under the light, give it a good bottom watering the next day.
Once you’ve given it a deep watering, only spray the roots enough the next few days to keep them from drying out. This is a balance that has to be mastered through practice. In another several days, you will probably need to give the flat another deeper watering.
You’ll see much better growth by not drenching them every single day. Nasturtium microgreens are very hardy and can survive dry soil. We made the mistake of not giving them enough water in the beginning and realized how dry the soil was. But they were growing and still looked fine with no sign of drooping.
Even if you don’t get it perfect the first time, just keep trying. You’ll get the hang of it soon.
Photo shows nasturtiums at day 10. Their growth intensifies quickly towards the later half of your growing cycle.
By day 16 the nasturtiums should be a tall and vibrant forest in your flat. They are ready to harvest or sell live at this point.
Uses and Flavor
Nasturtiums are not only beautiful to look at, but they also have a unique flavor that can add a spicy and peppery kick to any dish. Chefs love to use nasturtiums in culinary creations to add a pop of color and flavor, such as salmon.
The leaves, flowers, and stems of nasturtiums are all edible and can be used in a variety of ways. The leaves and flowers can be used as a garnish on salads, soups, and main dishes. The leaves are unique and truly add flair to a dish.
In terms of flavor, nasturtiums have a peppery and slightly bitter taste, similar to arugula. The flowers have a milder flavor and are often used in desserts or as a decorative element on cakes and pastries. For this article, we’re strictly focusing on the leaves as microgreens.
Nasturtiums can be a show-stopper and are popular with chefs. If you’re growing microgreens to sell, they are definitely worth perfecting for a restaurant market, but customers on the open market will probably find them appealing as well. Give it a try! It’s satisfying to conquer the challenge of growing nasturtium shoots.