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THE ULTIMATE BEGINNERS GUIDE ON HOW TO GROW MICROGREENS

Published by North texas Microgreens



Adding microgreens to your diet is a fast and easy way to increase your nutrient intake and to promote a healthy lifestyle. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland found that in addition to the significant health benefits microgreens provide, their tiny leaves (ounce per ounce) also provide a much higher nutritional values than the mature leaves of the same plants. However, the window for optimum nutrition of microgreens is relatively short and knowing when to harvest can be tricky. This guide will take you through everything you need to know on how to grow and when to harvest your own microgreens


SO WHAT ARE MICROGREENS?

Microgreens are the first true leaves produced from a seedling, often seen within a few days of sprouting. These greens are young, small, and fragile, only reaching about 1-3 inches in height. Microgreens are just the seedling stage of the mature version of the plant. This seedling or microgreens stage is packed with all the nutrients needed for the seedling to quickly grow and become stronger. Here, the microgreens have also begun to develop the plant’s unique flavor profile which is often as potent as its mature version, making it a “super” version of the plant.


MICROGEENS Vs. SPROUTS

You may hear the term “Sprouts” used within the same context as “Microgreens” which is not accurate. Sprouts are seeds germinated in water long enough for them to form roots, a stem, and underdeveloped leaves. They are usually only grown for 48 hours before harvesting, whereas microgreens can take up to several weeks. Sprouts can be considered as the very first stage of plant development, which eventually develops into a microgreen. Sprouts are nutritious, but lack the flavor, vibrant color, and texture attributed with microgreens.


MICROGEENS Vs. BABY GREENS

As discussed, microgreens are simply young plants that are harvested after shortly after they have developed their first set of real leaves, while baby greens are given more time to grow and develop into baby versions of the mature plant. Because microgreens intended to be harvested while the plants are small, they are planted more densely and yield more produce faster than baby greens. Whiles studies have shown that Baby greens may yield higher levels of certain nutrients compared to microgreens, these same studies have shown that microgreens are packed with more flavors and taste more like their mature plants versus baby greens.


ARE ALL MICROGREENS EDIBLE?

Technically any edible plant type will have a microgreen stage, but not all microgreens are edible. Nightshades should not be grown as microgreens because they have a higher risk of producing toxic compounds that will make you sick. These include plants like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.


CAN YOU USE REGULAR SEEDS FOR MICROGREENS?

Yes, you can grow microgreens from seeds for the mature plant, just harvest the seeds when they are still microgreens. Microgreens are ready to eat when they have root systems and their first four true leaves. You’ll find specific microgreen seed at many stores though and online if you want to find the ones that do best with this method.


WHAT ARE SOME NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF MICROGREENS?

Microgreens are perfect toppers to your meals. In addition to the nutritional value, and associated health benefits microgreens, they also creatively add flavor, texture, color to the dish. The nutrient content varies by plant type but the majority of all microgreens contain large amounts of vitamins C and E and beta carotene. Researchers found that red cabbage microgreens contains the highest amount of vitamin C (40 times the amount contained in regular red cabbage!). Green daikon radish microgreens contain the most vitamin E than any other microgreens (6 times that contained in mature radishes). Cilantro microgreens contain three times more beta-carotene than mature cilantro. A general rule of thumb to can use is the more colorful the crop, the more nutrients it will contain


WHICH MICROGREENS ARE THE HEALTHIEST?

One of the healthiest microgreens to grow is Broccoli. Broccoli microgreens contain high levels of sulforaphane (anti-cancer properties), support cardiovascular health, and have high levels of Vitamin A B, C, and E. In addition, it contains the minerals iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.


WHAT ARE THE MOST NUTRITIOUS MICROGREENS?

According to a detailed analysis conducted by researchers in Poland, broccoli microgreens are one of the most nutritious options, along with radish and lentil sprouts, and radish, amaranth, and kale microgreens. These microgreens are considered superfoods due to their high nutritional value. One study even suggests that broccoli microgreens have the power to decrease malnutrition.


WHAT ARE THE MOST BENNEFICIAL MICROGREENS?

The nutrients in the different microgreens vary depending on what variety you choose, so it’s important to consider which one will work best for your personal dietary needs before buying them.


Different types of microgreens provide different nutrients depending on the type. For instance,

golden flaxseed shoots are high in protein and fiber while basil has lots of antioxidants. Arugula is packed with an abundance of antioxidants and glucosinolates which have been shown to protect against cancer-causing free radicals. The vitamin C in this vegetable also helps the body create collagen, strengthening blood vessels so it’s great for people who suffer from chronic pain or circulation problems.


WHAT ARE THE TASTIEST MICROGREENS?

Microgreens come in a variety of flavors and textures, making it difficult to determine the tastiest one. However, some popular options include radish, lentil, mustard, and kale microgreens. Radish microgreens are rich, peppery, and slightly floral, while lentil microgreens have a fresh, sweet flavor. Mustard microgreens are bold and spicy, and kale microgreens have a nutty flavor. Ultimately, the tastiest microgreen is subjective and depends on personal preference.


WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR MICROGREEN TYPES?

Of course, nutrition and health benefits are important features to consider when selecting a microgreen type, but flavor, texture, and color are arguably bigger drivers as these traits can have and should have a positive impact on the complexity of your dish. Fortunately, there are over 80 microgreens plant types, each with unique profiles to experiment with. Here are a few of the most popular microgreen types commonly used by chefs.


Sunflower microgreens are the most popular microgreens due to their rich protein and vitamin B content and a slightly sweet taste. We recommend seeds from the black oil variety for the strongest flavor and healthiest plants. However, it’s best to start with a wide range of representative flavors and textures, such as radish, lentil, mustard, and kale, to explore further and get your footing in the world of microgreens.


CAN YOU EAT MICROGREENS EVERYDAY?

Yes, you can eat microgreens every day! In fact, there isn’t really a limit on the number of microgreens you can eat. Eating large quantities will only ensure your body gets a high dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. However, like with any other food, you shouldn’t eat anything but microgreens. A balanced diet that includes adequate sources of proteins and carbohydrates is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So, go ahead and enjoy the delicious and nutritious benefits of microgreens every day!


Broccoli

Arugula

Chia

Cilantro

Basil

Kale

Endive

Radish

Watercress

Cabbage

Pea

Spinach

Beet

Amaranth

Sunflower

Mustard

SO HOW DO I GROW MICROGREENS?

Growing microgreens is a lot of fun and relatively easy, but plants require will daily dedicated time and attention. All you need is seeds, a grow pot or tray, soil, fiber grow medium, or hydroponic system, and a light source. Microgreens starter kits can be purchased online or at any major home and garden store or start from scratch. If you choose not to buy a kit, you can start your microgreens gardening experience indoors by using a reusable or disposable plastic food container. You can be creative: use a plastic juice carton, Styrofoam cup, or the plastic container strawberries are packaged in. Create drainage holes and fill with seed-starting mix and your choice of seed. 10” x 20” planting trays are most common and can be purchased for around $1.5 each. You can also purchase a humidity dome, basically a clear plastic cover for the tray that contains some of the vaporizing water within the frow area, creating a favorable humidity controlled environment. Humidity domes can be pretty beneficial especially in during the germination stage, but are not completely necessary to grow microgreens successfully. You can also purchase these trays and half trays ( 10’ x 10”) with or without bottom drainage holes, which make bottom watering systems easy to accomplish.





WHAT TYPE OF LIGHT SOURCE DO I NEED TO GROW MICROGREENS?

Lighting is extremely important and will have a significant impact on your harvest yield. Natural sunlight provides everything microgreens need to grow healthy and strong. However, the amount of sunlight and the intensity of the sunlight can vary based on your location, weather conditions, and time day and season you are growing in. access to direct sunlight can be difficult for some people based on where they live, space constraints may also force you to move operations to an outdoors location like your backyard or roof top could be limited by seasonal conditions. Too hot or too cold can severely impact the growth of your plants. For these reasons, North Texas Microgreens grows indoors using temperature controlled facilities ideal for microgreens. We use multi tiered racks with high intensity LED light bars that run the length on of the rack shelf. Two LED bars for shelf equally spaced to provide an even exposure of full spectrum lighting to each tray of crops. LED’s are energy efficient, using only a fraction of the power a conventional incandescent light bulb uses to produce the same light intensity. This also reduces the amount of heat produced by the LED light compared to other light sources. With less heat production, the plants are less thermally stressed, and the soil moisture is maintained for a much longer time, reducing the watering cycle frequency and over water quantity used per harvest. From a technical perspective, plants require certain types of light spectrums as they develop, which changes depending on the grow stage they are in.


THE MCREE CURVE

In the 1970s, Dr. Keith. J. McCree (1927-2014), a professor at Texas A&M University in the Soils and Crop Sciences department and a physicist by education, published a paper called "The action spectrum, absorptance and quantum yield of photosynthesis in crop plants". His paper studied the action of light pectrum absorptance for leaves of 22 species of crop plants, over the wavelength range 350 to 750 nm. His studies showed thatr all plant species absorb light predominantly within two primary twavelength sprectums, which he defined as the he quantum yield curve. These light sprecturm ranges are centered at 620 and 440 nm, with a shoulder at 670 nm. The average height of the blue peak was 70% of that of the red peak.


The sun produces energy across the entire spectrum at equal quantities, commonly referred to as "white light". Based on the Mcree curve it is apparent that plants absorb more energy from the red portion of the spectrum and les in the blue/green protion of the spectrum to grow.


lArtificial ight sources such as incandescent lamps, do not produce white light. They produce most of their light along the yellow to red range. While the provide some of the proper light spectrum for plants, significantly more energy is required to produce the same quantities which creates a lot more heat that can be detrimental to the plants health. Other sources such as fluorescent light bulbs and white LEDs do produce light that closely resembles the white “full spectrum” at a fraction of the required power compared to incandecent light sources.


LED light Brightness or light intensity basically describes how bright the light is based on a given input power level. Brightness is measured in Lumens (lm), the total amount of light emitted by a source for a given unit of time. Therefore the higher the LED Lumen value, the brighter the light is, and brighter is better in this case. North Texas Microgreens uses LED bars producing 6600 Lumens of light intensity at only 60w power (75 percent reduction of power from incandescent bulbs)! Ideally bulbs of this intensity should be positioned between 8 to 12” from the plant for optimum compromise between light coverage and light intensity at the plant. Therefore, our rack shelves are set 12” apart.


It's also important to note that LED’s or “Light Emitting Diodes” produce directional light unless specifically designed to emulate the omni directional light distribution produced from an incandescent bulb. For this reason we suggest selecting a V LED Bulb Design. This incorporates two rows of LED chips, which are specifically angled to provide a 270 degree emitting angle, ensuring higher lighting efficiency and wider lighting range to Illuminate the entire shelf.


For more information on our recommendations on our setup and hardware used, please contact us.


WHAT KIND OF SOIL DO MICROGREENS LIKE?

Microgreens grow happily in compost, most potting soil mixes, or a half-and-half combination of perlite and vermiculite. We have had success with a wide variety of commercially sold soil mixes, and found that soils incorporating a large mix of peat moss tend to cause problems during the germination stage. Pet moss while a great moisture storage material, can form a crust over the un germinated seed caused by heavy top soil spray watering. Smaller amounts evenly mixed throughout the soil has proven to yield good results.


WHEN DO I HARVEST MICROGREENS?

Microgreens are generally harvested at about 1-3 inches in height. A general harvesting timeline follows leaf growth. you’ll want to harvest when you see a second set of leaves appear. Simply snip with scissors above the soil level, or you can pull up entire clumps of greens (you cannot harvest more than once).


CAN YOU REUSE SOIL FOR MICROGREENS?

Yes, you can reuse the soil microgreens have grown in. Just make sure to remove the stems and roots of the previous round of microgreens before planting the next batch.


DO MICROGREENS NEED FERTILIZER?

Most microgreens will have their nutrient needs met by the soil mix they are grown in. If you are growing microgreens hydroponically, without soil, use a liquid fertilizer to give them nutrition.


DO MICROGREENS NEED TO BE WASHED?

As with any produce you will consume, you should wash microgreens in clear, cool running water before eating them.


DO MICROGREENS REGROW AFTER CUTTING?

It depends on the variety of microgreen, but many types of green will grow back after being cut as microgreens.


SHOULD YOU REFRIGERATE MICROGREENS?

If you harvest microgreens and do not plan to eat them immediately, you will need to refrigerate them to keep them fresh. Place them between moistened paper towels inside of a plastic Ziploc bag in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them.


DO YOU HAVE SOME SPECIFIC GROWING TIPS FOR CERTAIN MRICORGRREENS?

While the grow cycle is identical for all plants, there are some pretty significant differences on how certain plants are grown. We have gathered a few key examples and growing tips you should keep in mind when grwoing your own microgreens.




FAVA BEEN MICROGREENS


Fava Bean microgreens are much smaller than the traditional English broad bean. These are very easy to grow and are full of nutrients and fiber. They also contain a high protein level which helps in managing diabetes. Like pea micros, fava microgreens are heavy enough to put on a salad and not get lost under the dressing. The beans themselves are very common throughout the middle east where they are cooked and eaten in many ways.


Fava Bean Growing

In fact, the Fava bean can reach its microgreen stage in 8 days or less. Like soybean and mung bean, Fava is a temperate leguminous plant that favors a growing temperature of 25-30 °C (77-86 °F). The rooting system is thick and is best grown in Soil versus coco coir fiber mats or other alternative growing mediums.




AMARANTH MICROGREENS

Red Army Amaranth Microgreens, AKA: Blood Amaranth, Princes Feather, or Mexican Grain Amaranth is a darker and more robust cultivar of the already deep maroon Blood Amaranth. Red Army amaranth tastes, looks, and performs nearly identical to Red Garnet amaranth and is able to grow as a quick 8-12 day microgreen crop. Amaranth microgreens are thin, feathery, and beautiful. They have a vibrant red/pink color and loved by chefs for garnishing. One thing to note is amaranth is quite sensitive to light and grows a little slower.

Amaranth growing guide

Red Army amaranth microgreens grow best in soil-based crop rather than growing hydroponically or on a coco coir fiber medium. Dampen the soil thoroughly before planting seeds. Presoaking the seeks prior to planting is not needed or recommended. Distribute the seeds evenly trying to prevent them from clumping together. Lightly tamp the seeds into the soil, and carefully water spray. A applying thin 1/8” layer of top soil over the seeds before watering may aid in the germination process. Seeds will germinate in 1-3 days. Since the seeds will be watered routinely (several times a day), care must be taken to prevent the development of mold. Therefore, it is advisable to use a hydrogen peroxide/water solution (1% ratio) during the germination stage.


The blackout time needs to be longer than most microgreen types (approximately 3-5 days) to ensure the Amaranth plant 1 to 1.5” in height, before exposing them to light. The height is important to the proper growth amaranth microgreen and can be a little challenging for beginners. This risk of damage to the plants grown with shorter blackout periods can be significantly reduced by using an LED light source (full spectrum 6500k) at a height of 8 to 12“ above the plant. A 12-hour light cycle is advised for early development at least within the first 5 days. Once the plants are about 2 inches in height, you may switch to a 24 hour LED lighting cycle to help expedite growing.

Watering can be tricky early on, and care must be taken not to heavily spray water on the plant, which can knock them over or damage them. It is advisable to incorporate bottom watering (i.e., soaking the soil from the bottom). Be sure to use a grow tray with holes in the bottom, lower the tray into a water bath until the soil is completely saturated. Remove the tray and allow the water to full drain before placing under the light. Repeat this process once a day or as needed. It is important to avoid leaving the soil in standing water where mold can develop.





ARUGULA MICROGEENS

Arugula growing guide

Arugula microgreens, or rocket, are types of microgreens with a unique peppery taste. It is also one of the most popular types of microgreens for the salad mix and garnishing. Arugula is fairly easy to grow and germinate quickly within just a couple of days.

Presoaking the seeks prior to planting is not needed or recommended. Arugula is a small seed and slender root system which grows perfectly in a coco coir fiber medium. Thoroughly soak the fiber grow sheet in the tray, flipping it over and pressing it in the water filled tray will help. Once saturated, drain the remaining water from the tray and distribute the seeds evenly trying to prevent them from clumping together. Seeds will germinate in 1-3 days. During this period, the seeds will need to be watered routinely (several times a day) to ensure they stay moist, care must be taken to prevent the development of mold. Therefore, it is advisable to use a hydrogen peroxide/water solution (1% ratio) during the germination stage.


The height of the germinated plant is not critical, only that the vast majority of the seeds have sprouted before putting the tray under light. Arugula is usually packed pretty tightly in the tray and can handle direct water spray without the risk of damage. Additionally, once germinated, Arugula can be put on a 24 hour LED light source without harm to the plant. A LED light source (full spectrum 6500k) at a height of 8 to 12“ above the plant is ideal.

Watering is done by pouring water into the tray at one end of the coco coir fiber and tipping the tray to allow the water to run to the opposite end. Wath for the pool of water to collect to ensure the coir is fully soaked. Repeat the process for the left and right sides of the tray. Once complete, drain off the remaining water. It is important to avoid leaving standing water in the tray allowing mold can develop. In fact, Arugula will develop a slimy sludge at its base if the grow medium remain over saturated, essentially damaging the plant and causing a rotting odder.


Arugula grows pretty quickly, and will reach a height of 2 – 2.5 inches in about 7 to 10 days.





BASIL MICROGREENS

Basil Microgreens seeds form a gel-like membrane on the outside of themselves when they get wet. This makes them sticky, resulting in seed clumping, which is why you do not presoak them. Basil can be grown on any medium but grows perfectly on coco coir fiber medium.

Thoroughly soak the fiber grow sheet in the tray, flipping it over and pressing it in the water filled tray will help. Once saturated, drain the remaining water from the tray and distribute the seeds evenly trying to prevent them from clumping together. The Basil seeds will germinate in 3-5 days. During this period, the seeds will need to be watered routinely (several times a day) to ensure they stay moist, care must be taken to prevent the development of mold. Therefore, it is advisable to use a hydrogen peroxide/water solution (1% ratio) during the germination stage.


Basil Microgreens do not require a black out period to germinate. However, one is still recommended to expedite the sprouting process. Basil will be usually packed pretty tightly in the tray and can handle direct water spray without the risk of damage. Basil can also be put on a 24 hour LED light source without harm to the plant. A LED light source (full spectrum 6500k) at a height of 8 to 12“ above the plant is ideal.

Watering is done by pouring water into the tray at one end of the coco coir fiber and tipping the tray to allow the water to run to the opposite end. Wath for the pool of water to collect to ensure the coir is fully soaked. Repeat the process for the left and right sides of the tray. Once complete, drain off the remaining water. It is important to avoid leaving standing water in the tray allowing mold can develop.




BEET MICROGREENS

Beet microgreens have a vibrantly beautiful red color. It’s not difficult to plant at all, which is perfect for those just starting. The taste is quite similar to beetroot but a little sweeter and less earthy.

Beet microgreens prefer to be pre-soaked up to 10-hours prior to seeding to activate them. For the best results, only Grow beet microgreens seeds in soil. Beet seeds are an abnormally shaped seed, which contributes to why its preferred medium is soil. Their root systems also require a bit more room to explore and grab hold, and they struggle to grow on coco coir or other fiber type mediums.

Next, you’ll need to prepare your trays. Micro greens need about 2 inches of soil in the tray. Basically add 4 – 5 cups of water (for a 10" x 20" tray) the gradually transfer the soil to the tray, spread the soil evenly and gently tamp or pat it flat and even. You want a flat, even bed of soil that is firm, but not compacted. Dampen the topsoil by sprinkling or spraying a little water gently and evenly over the soil. The soil should be quite damp but not soggy. Re-tamp gently if necessary.

Spread your soaked seed evenly across the tray. Applying around 35 grams of beet seeds will end up being quite thickly spread. Gently water the seeds by spraying them generously, then lightly coat them with a thin layer of top soil, followed by another generous watering cycle. It is important to note that top soil can form a surface crust layer when watered, and allowed to dry. This crust layer can interfere with the seedlings germination cycle. Therefore use this sparingly. Alternatively the seeds can be gently tamped into the soil by hand which arguably works better. Here, at least 50% of the seed should be pressed into the most soil leaving a small portion of the seed exposed above the soil line.

The tray will need to be placed in complete darkness in order to activate the seed germination cycle. However, it is OK to uncover the seed tray a couple of times a day to water them with a mist spray bottle. 15 to 20 evenly distributed sprays should do. Do not add additional water other than misting. Ensure the tray is fully covered after each watering cycle.

After a few days while, the beets will start to sprout. However, keep the tray in darkness until at least 85% of the seeds have sprouted. This can take up to five days. After that, place under a grow light or in sunlight. If an LED light source is used, 24 hours of light will help speed up the grow cycle significantly. It is worth noting that young beet microgreens are fragile, and tend to fall over when heavily sprayed during watering cycles. This will cause the plant to grow long wiring stems which makes harvesting difficult. Bottom watering is highly recommended. This required a tray with holes in the bottom, which can be placed in a water bath until the soil is completed saturated, then allowed to completely drain before being placed back under the light. At about 12 days the beet microgreens leaves have developed and can handle spray watering if preferred.



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