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Written by Madison MacLeod
For me, growing microgreens at home was inspired by a work challenge. A lovely coworker eats a salad almost daily, and it usually comes in these mini plastic tubs. One day, she brought in a tub of microgreens. I thought it was sad how a tiny plants that have such a short life have to be packaged in plastic. Plastic that will outlive those tiny plants by thousands of years in a landfill.
A quick snack = centuries of landfill? I don’t think so.
Already knowing how easy it is to grow microgreens, I watched a few videos on the popular methods of growing them. They often involved buying these long black (non-recyclable) plastic trays, filling it with soil, adding seeds and water, and waiting. It’s pretty much that simple. But why the single-use plastic? Also, for normal 2-3 person households, this would produce wayyyyyy more sprouts than could possibly be consumed in time.
So I asked to use this non-recyclable plastic tub “for an experiment.” I wanted to show her how easy, affordable, and fun it is to grow your own microgreens.
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are vegetable or salad sprouts, before they mature into the full plant. They are delicious, packed with nutrients, and grow incredibly fast, like about a week. Microgreens are packed with betacarotene, antioxidants (Vitamins C & E), and Vitamin K. Zhoosh it up with a little dressing and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts, microgreen salad can truly stand on its own.
But it also makes for a healthy salad accompaniment, or simply as a garnish:
What seeds to use:
My favorite microgreens are arugula, radish, clover, broccoli and kale sprouts. But these seeds are often only sold in tiny and expensive paper envelopes or worse, plastic packaging.
Firstly, check online, see if you can find a seed distributor who will sell their products in compostable paper packaging.
If you can’t find bulk seeds packaged in paper, do not fear. Have you considered the bulk aisle in your local grocery store? Many seeds, dried beans and peas can be sprouted into delicious microgreens! I’ve found chickpeas, chia seeds, peas, mung (aka soy) beans, and lentils in the bulk sections of many grocery stores.
That’s right, even dried peas can be planted and quickly sprouted into edible greens. Or go a little further and grow yourself some new peas!
List of microgreen seeds:
Beet, buckwheat, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chard, chia, clover, herbs, lentils, mung bean, mustard, radish, sunflower, spinach, split pea, peas.
basically: any herb or salad seed, and tons of others!
How to Grow Microgreens easily!
Here’s my sustainable, step-by-step method to grow microgreens in your own garden or even just on a sunny windowsill.
Step 1: Find a plastic tray, tub, or carton (see below) to reuse. “I don’t buy plastic packaging, so I don’t have anything to reuse.” Is not an excuse. It just means you are not looking hard enough. I grabbed mine from a coworker. Takeaway and to-go containers work just fine, too! See what your non-zero waste friends are getting ready to toss, it’s not weird, it’s a conversation piece.
If you really can’t find anything, there is nothing wrong with recycle-bin diving. Just make sure to dress up in black, ideally like a cat, and rummage under the cover of nightfall. Having a glass of wine or three before doing this adds to the excitement.
I literally reused a formally single-use microgreen container. It seemed fitting, literally and figuratively:
Step 2: Take your container/tray, and poke several holes into it. I used a screw driver and placed the tray on top of a patch of grass so I could stab the holes into it without damaging the screw driver or other surfaces.
Step 3: Fill container with soil about 1-1/4” high. I mixed in 50% old potting soil with 50% homemade compost. I figure the old potting soil had most of the nutrients sucked out by my last plant, so mixing some compost in seemed to be effective in rejuvenating the soil. I am not basing this on science, just made sense in my head and seemed to work.
Step 4: Sprinkle an even layer of seeds on top of the soil, or as evenly as you can. The smaller the seed, the more difficult it is to spread evenly, I have found. It’s okay, these guys usually find a way to work it out among themselves.
Step 5: Gently saturate the soil with water, make sure that it is draining. If it’s not draining, the soil might mold, and that’s no bueno. Place in a warm and sunny spot, like a window sill. Direct sunlight is not necessary, just a safe spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Water daily.
After 24 hours, you can already see that a few seeds have sprouted. I added about 1/2 more water, sprinkled evenly over the soil, and replaced the lid, upside down, loosely on top of the container again, to keep the area moist but not overly saturated.
Wow!! It has taken off. I am not totally sure why the sides sprouted before the center, but these seeds sprouted like, Chia pet fast. Cha-cha-cha-chia! (No, these were actually arugula sprouts)
The center is finally sprouting and the edges continue to take off. This is about the time I would start a second batch of greens to have a continuous supply.
At this point you can let them grow a couple more days or cut, wash and eat them now!
Top with your favorite dressing. After a quick wash, I jazzed my microgreens up with sunflower seeds to add a little extra crunch!
My Favorite Microgreen Salad
My favorite microgreen salad consists of arugula sprouts, sliced cucumbers, diced red bell pepper, and salted sunflower seeds.
For the dressing:
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- a splash of red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Mix together and pour over salad. Toss to coat evenly.
Written by Madison MacLeod