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Pea-sprouts-cropped

Got a sunny window? Grow baby peas like these in four to seven days.

 

You’ve see them at the farmers market – and likely gasped at the price. Those tiny, tasty little leaves called microgreens are treasured by locavores and health-conscious cooks looking to get more nutrients on their plates. The truth is, nothing could be easier or more economical to grow yourself. If you have a sunny window, you’re in business. And what could be more local than that?

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are the tender, leafy part of edible vegetables and herbs that you grow in soil under bright light and harvest when they are just a few inches high. Most greens will be ready to harvest within 14 days. Try broccoli, kale, arugula, beet, basil, cilantro, mustard, cabbage, amaranth, sunflower or pea. Or mix several different seeds and harvest a mini-salad.

Microgreens are good for you

A study released by researchers at the University of Maryland last summer revealed that microgreens are power-packed with significantly more nutrients than mature plants. For example, red cabbage microgreens had 40 times more vitamin E and six times more vitamin C than mature red cabbage. You can read the complete results  in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Here’s how to grow your own

Like most grow-your-own adventures, there is more than one way to get results. These instructions from Altan Alma Organic Farm in Boulder, CO, have always worked for me.

IMG_0135

You’ll need:

  • Jar or bowl (for peas or sunflowers)
  • Flat, leak-proof container, like a plastic nursery flat
  • Flat containers with drainage holes. Clean recycled plastic food containers with holes poked in the bottom
    are perfect for this, or you can use plastic nursery containers.
  • Soil  (Organic potting soil works just fine)
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Sunny window or grow light
  • Seeds (Good seed sources:  Seeds of Change, Lake Valley Seed, Botanical Interests)

Grow your greens

  • Fill your drainable containers with about one inch of soil. Leave a half-inch of space below the top of the tray.
  • Set your drainable containers inside the flat, watertight tray.
  • Wet the soil in the container completely (but not soaking).
  • Sprinkle seeds evenly over the soil.
  • Place container in a bright, sunny window, or under a grow light.
  • Water daily, using the spray bottle to keep seeds moist.
  • Once mircrogreens have reached one inch tall, begin bottom watering only.
  • Move the container to the fridge once the greens are three inches tall.
  • Your greens should be ready to harvest within eight to 14 days. To harvest, use scissors or a sharp knife to cut plants an inch or so above the soil line.

Grow peas or sunflowers

  • Place seeds in a jar or bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight.
  • Drain water, rinse peas with fresh water, and allow to drain overnight. The seeds should just be starting to sprout.
  • Fill your drainable containers with about one inch of soil. Leave a half-inch of space below the top of the tray.
  • Set your drainable containers inside the flat, watertight tray.
  • Wet the soil in the container until just damp. A spray bottle is handy for this. Do NOT soak the soil.
  • Sprinkle seeds evenly over the soil.
  • Place container in a bright, sunny window, or under a grow light.
  • Water daily, using the spray bottle.
  • Microgreens should be about six inches tall within four to seven days.
  • Once they have reached the desired height, move the container into the fridge and water from the bottom only. Pour water into the watertight bottom tray so the roots can soak it up.
  • To harvest, use scissors or a sharp knife to cut plants an inch or so above the soil line. If you leave enough stem with leaves and place the container back in the window, you might get a second crop!
  • Pea and sunflower microgreen should keep seven to 10 days in the fridge.

Keep ’em coming

Once you’ve harvested your microgreens, simply pull out the roots and toss them into the compost bin. Then, fluff up the remaining soil with a fork and plant again. I like to stagger plantings so I always have a ready supply of greens. Be sure not to reuse soil that’s suffered an insect infestation.

Try this microgreen recipe

Toss hot pasta with butter, just-harvested pea greens, and freshly grated parmesan. Be sure the pasta is piping hot so the greens wilt just a little. Delish!

Permaculture principles at work

  •  Catch and store energy
    (Harvest while it’s abundant)
  •  Obtain a yield
    (Make sure you’re getting valuable results)
  •  Use and value renewable resources and services
    (Reduce dependency on scarce resources)
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