PHOTOS: By Kathy Jentz.
GARDENING GODDESS • BY KATHY JENTZ
It is sometimes hard in winter to add truly fresh greens to your diet. Growing your own microgreens is one way to address that difficulty. Microgreens are a nutritional power house that are super easy to grow and cook with. Young lettuce seedlings, harvested 7 days after germination, had the highest antioxidant capacity as well as the highest concentrations of health-promoting phenolic compounds, compared with their more mature counterparts, according to a study published in the Journal of American Society for Horticultural Science.
Microgreens are beloved by chefs for adding just a kick of flavor to a wide range of dishes from sandwiches and soups to garnishing a white pizza. My own favorite use is to put baby arugula greens in an egg-salad sandwich (leave out the celery and onions). Try them in omelettes and, of course, as the base of a salad or just sprinkled in for color, texture, and added flavor. Wendy Kiang-Spray, who blogs at www.greenishthumb.net and is a big microgreens enthusiast, shares several smoothie recipes on her site that use these tiny and delicious plants.
Why pay high grocery store and restaurant prices when you can easily grow your own? All you need is a space on a sunny windowsill or a shallow container on a patio or porch. Start with a wide plastic container, like a salad take-out shell. Poke several holes in the tray bottom and put the lid of the tray underneath to collect any excess water.
Next, add good potting soil. Look for a brand without added fertilizers, which are unnecessarily for these tiny seedlings and may actually “burn” the new growth. Fill the container with no more than about 2-3 inches in depth of the soil.
You’ll want to buy your seeds in bulk as you need to plant them fairly thickly and you may want to do several batches, planting a new container as the old one starts to thin out. Scatter the seeds across the soil surface. Try to space them out fairly evenly and then press them into the soil surface gently.
Water them in well using a spray bottle filled with filtered water set on mist. Then place the tray in a sunny window. Keep the soil moistened by misting it a few times a day. You should start to see seeds sprouting by the end of one week and can start harvesting the greens at any time thereafter.
To harvest the greens, use clean kitchen scissors to snip off the seedlings just above the soil. With many varieties of lettuce greens, you can let the seedlings grow back and then come back to cut them again and repeat the process a few times before they eventually tire out.
Great choices for microgreens include radishes, beets, most any lettuce green or brassica (broccoli, cabbage, etc.), peas, watercress, sunflowers, and leafy herbs like basil and parsley.
Try your hand at growing these baby greens and you may find your easy success with it can be your “gateway drug” into the rest of the wide, wonderful gardening world!
This article appeared in The DC Ladies blog and in of Washington Gardener Magazine in slightly different versions.