WHY have I not been growing microgreens this entire time?!
What do you eat for lunch in the summer if you grow cucumbers, green and wax beans, lettuce, oregano, basil, thyme, radishes, tomatoes, and micro-greens? You can add a little olive oil, salt and pepper, avocado, and pumpkin seeds. Presto! You have the most refreshing and satisfying salad. Even if your garden tomatoes or micro-greens aren't quite ready, don't dismay. You can head over to your closest farmers' market and support your local farmer friends.
Lately, we have been talking a lot about gardens, compost, education, and healthy food to grow but have we taken enough time to look at the delicious food yet? My children were so excited to go in the garden and pick some fresh fruits and vegetables. They carefully use their herb scissors, carry their baskets, inspect each plant, and gather foods for meals. We have been growing a variety of herbs, tomatoes and other nightshades, flowers, gourds, cucumbers, squash, radishes, and lettuce mixes—just to name a few. With a few small additions from local farmers, vendors, and the independently-owned health food store we have a nutritious, flavorful lunch salad. Our local Emmaus Farmers' Market offers a family-owned olive oil vendor and farmers that offer organic produce. Our local health food store offers slightly salted, roasted pumpkin seeds that make the perfect crunchy addition to any dish. But the real star of this salad—and countless other dishes—are the micro-greens. We started growing our own micros but while we were waiting for the sprouts to get a little bigger, we used Patriot Farm's radish micros, broccoli micros, and cabbage micros. They offer a medley of sweet, spicy, and colorful heart-shaped details that are packed with nutrients and flavor. They are small and easy to eat. When you are eating with children, they make a great addition to any meal to ensure that everyone is getting enough greens because these little guys pack a punch!
Little Greens with a Lot to Offer
Many years ago, we had a fish tank with growing stones and micro-greens. My son took care of the fish and the sprouts. He watered them, he fed the fish, he talked to the fish and the sprouts, and then he helped me give the sprouts "hair cuts". Unfortunately, when we moved to our new location, the fish tank never made it, and so, we slowly forgot about our efficient micro-green micro-garden.
This year when Patriot Farm entered the Farmers' Market arena, we were so happy to see purple, dark green, and chartreuse heart-shaped greens appear on the market tables. "Oh, I forgot about you and I'm so happy that you're back in my life!" We eat micros almost every day. We eat them on salads, on soups, on tacos, on sandwiches, and by the spoonfuls. My children smile and eat a handful of micros and say, "And that, is how you eat your vegetables!"
Recently inspired by a session that I watched on the Educator's Ag Institute's summer workshop series, I followed the instructions with some children and we tried this out on our own. [*This year the PA Farm Bureau's Educator's Ag Institute offered a session about gardens and plants. It was entitled, "Student Farm at Penn State Tour and Microgreens Kit Workshop." The session was presented by Leslie Pillen of the Sustainability Institute. I personally loved it and highly recommend it to anyone interested in agricultural and farm education applications for all ages.]
What to do?
Grab a take out container with a lid. Carefully poke holes in the bottom of the container (normally the colored tray). Place the lid under the tray and fill with a soil or potting blend. Here you can see that we mixed our own which is comprised of a coconut coir, organic potting blend, and perlite. We slowly poured water into the tray and frequently checked to see if the water was soaking through. Then we picked our seeds and spread them over the top of the growing medium. We did not follow directions as we got distracted with playing outside. One of these trays was filled with radish, broccoli, and broccoli raab seeds while the black tray was sprinkled with an edible mix of sunflower seeds. We placed the trays directly in the sun to heat up while we played outside. Later we brought our two trays inside and placed them in a warm location. We completely forgot about them for a few days and upon inspection one of them had started to sprout while the other had signs of meddling. We inspected further to realize that a bird had found our tray of sunflower seeds and that crafty guy split most of the shells and made off with the goods. We sorted through the remains to find that some seeds were still intact. We watered the trays without getting the sprouts wet and forgot about them for a few more days. Then amazingly they appeared in full force! We carefully trimmed them, rinsed them, and happily threw them on every meal until we ate them all. After our first successful round of greens, we can compost the seeds or leave them in to add nutrients to the soil, then we will rake through the growing medium and will plant our next set later this week. In the interim, the few remaining sunflowers have begun to burst forth and we are excited to give them a try.
Where can I get micro-green seeds?
Actually, you probably already have some. You can grow many foods as micros, they are just plants that are picked shortly after sprouting. They are full of nutrients because they are small and have used all their energy and stored minerals to break open the seed shell/case and bust through the ground. Since they are primary producers the energy they convert from the sun, air, and water turn directly into energy for us; they offer the most nutrient-dense options for humans because they haven't depleted energy growing flowers or fruits. If you could eat rays of sunshine, water, and air, and the nutrients in the ground, it would almost be the same as eating a micro-green.
Some stores will market "Micro seeds" but any seeds that offer edible greens, tops, or leaves can be eaten as micros. We have tried or plan to try broccoli, broccolini, radish, lettuce, cabbage, mustard, basil, sunflower, amaranth, alfalfa, and chia. Remember chia pets? I always wanted one and the commercial would have been so much better if they told me that I could have eaten all those weird little seeds they spread on the terracotta hedgehog. Lesson learned. And what about sprouting seeds? They are a little different as they don't necessarily need soil to sprout. Think mung beans. You can use a jar or glass tray. I purchased a sprouting jar and lid at Rodale Institute with some alfalfa seeds but I haven't attempted to grow any yet. Now I know that they basically grow themselves, I may be more inclined or maybe I'll just sprinkle my alfalfa seeds on my growing medium and let them take off in soil. Something I have come across either in conversation or reading noted the importance of washing your micro-greens as there is a small chance of salmonella as the sprouts burst through the outer seed and the ground level. As with any type of food preparation, be sure to properly wash your hands and food before eating.
Thank you for joining this mini entry. While walking in my beautiful clover yard on Saturday, I stepped on a bee and was stung, so I decided a mini session was good enough for this week. Just enough time to say hi, spread some love, and introduce or reintroduce you to the wonderful world of micros. If you have a take out container, an old pyrex, a casserole dish, some seeds, water, and a growing medium you can do this at home or school too. Children love to be a part of each step in the process. It is so satisfying when plants grow quickly and we can eat them right away.
Remember to Grow, Plant, Eat, Soil, and repeat. Be sure to return all unwanted growing medium and roots to your compost or garden. Have fun and eat your greens.
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