Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Growing microgreens

I love microgreens. Not only do they make all food look better, they are easy to grow and taste delicious and if possible are even more tasty than their larger counterparts. I have loved them for a long time and usually buy them when I see them at a farmers market even though they're super-expensive but until recently I never knew how easy to grow they are. My favourites to grow are basil (great with cheese and tomato based things), peashoots (delicious pea-like taste (surprisingly)), and really pretty, and coriander- packed with flavour. Basically though you can use any herb whose flavour you really like as harvesting them while they're still at the micro stage will just mean that you get that same flavour but far more intensely.

The best things about growing them is:
  • You can grow them indoors all year round
  • They take up very little space as you can pack the seeds in very close to each other as they aren't going to need to grow very much
  • They're cheap! Not very cheap mind you, but so so much cheaper than buying them fully grown. A packet from my local garden centre costs £2.50 and this contains 800 seeds. To compare, the cheapest I have ever found them fully grown is £3.50 for a pack (from borough market)- not sure how many are in a pack but definitely not 800. If you use normal herb seeds you can get these really quite cheaply, often around the £1 mark if you look around, and it's also a great way of using up seed packets at the end of the season
  • If you stagger your planting you can ensure you have a steady supply all the time
  • You harvest them so young that they probably won't have time to attract pests and they wont need much compost

Anyway enough gushing, here's how to do it. You will need:
  • Compost
  • A little seed tray- you can get these very cheaply I get mine from the pound shop but have even improvised with a big Ferrero Rocher box before
  • A propagator lid- not essential but it will help, you can use clingfilm or other clear plastic-or even a Ferrero Rocher box lid, if not
  • Microgreen seeds- but you can also use normal herb seeds
  • A bright windowsill to pop them on
To make them:
  • Fill your tray with compost, push it down with your hand to make sure there's plenty in, and dampen it slightly ensuring it's not waterlogged
  • Sow the seeds onto the tray, you can sow them thickly but try and make sure they're not touching each other, if they are just push them apart a bit, it's ok if some are touching but you don't want many to be
  • Cover these with a very light layer of compost, The depth should be about as deep as one of the seeds (ie not very)
  • Water again very lightly- a spray bottle is good for this
  • Cover the tray with the propagator lid or a plastic bag or clingfilm and leave
  • Check every so often that the compost isn't dry. If it is then water it very lightly, using a spray bottle is good if you're heavy handed like me and likely to go overboard with the watering.
  • Once the seeds have started germinating you won't need the lid/ plastic anymore so you can remove it and perhaps then start a new tray up so you ensure you have a continual supply
  • Start to harvest (ie cut them off) once there's about 4 small leaves on each shoot. Don't cut them once just two have appeared as these are seed leaves and will differ from the actual herb leaves. At this point use a sharp pair of scissors to cut them to you have the leaves and some stem. Some micro herbs will grow again at this point but for most you will then need to pull out the remaining stem and then use the compost to start over again. you don't have to remove the roots. You'll normally be able to start harvesting at around the two week mark.
  • Once you get really into it you might start soaking some of the seeds overnight or crushing ones like coriander slightly with your fingers, to help them germinate
And that's it, easy peasy! Like I said some will regrow once cut, for example pea shoots so check before you grow them. Once they're harvested dampen them slightly then put them in a sandwich box and keep them in the fridge, they'll last for quite a few days, then remove them as and when you need them and prepare for lots of very pretty dishes of food! Remember they're pretty delicate so I would use their larger counterparts in the actual cooking and save these as a garnish that you pop on right at the end before serving.


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