About 12 months ago I came across an article in Organic Gardener Magazine Jan/Feb 2012 by Justin Russell on Microgreens. Microgreens are a super fast super food that are easy to grow in a wide variety of containers, well suited to confined spaces such as courtyards, apartment balconies, in a well lit corner of a classroom or a partially shaded outdoor space in a childcare centre, preschool or school. The basic idea is to plant yummy stuff from seeds and harvest them while they are still small and a little bigger than sprout-sized. You do this continuously before the seedlings get large enough to require transplanting into larger pots or into the garden.
I was so inspired after reading this article that I went crazy and set up about 6 or 7 different pots and containers with a wide variety of microgreens at home.
Our first experiment Red Lentils, Snowpeas, Coriander (Cilantro), Lucerne (Alfalfa) and Mung Beans
As is recommended we sowed a lot of seeds, maybe a few too many in some of the smaller containers but in the end we couldn’t eat all that was on offer fast enough. First time round our children were not that crazy about the taste of most of the greens with the exception of Coriander (Cilantro) so maybe that was also why we were struggling to eat what kept popping up?
Having the microgreens just outside the kitchen door meant we could cut some to spruce up a basic salad or instantly put some greens in a sandwich. We used scissors each time to harvest only what we needed. Quick and easy a bit like giving the plants a little haircut!
When the microgreens got a bit old and a little too big we simply emptied the entire contents of their pots into our compost bin and dug it all in then started again.
(You could also chop up old microgreens for the worm farm. If you had larger quantities of for example alfalfa or peas you might be able to dig them directly into a garden bed as green compost).
Since our first attempt we have grown microgreens more modestly so that nothing is wasted. Now our children are appreciating more the yummy symphony of flavours that come with growing a wide variety of uber nutritious greens for soups, salads and sandwiches.
We have also experimented with growing mixes of microgreens in the one container which whilst not looking as appealing as single crop pots are a very fast way to get a variety of greens ready to easily harvest.
Having set-up food gardens at home, and as a parent/teacher assisted with their set-up in kindergartens, child care centres and in a school; I’m well aware of the time, effort and persistence needed to start these projects and then keep them going/growing. Not that I want to discourage others from pursuing the full blown food garden option, but this is where microgreens might have a role to play…
Growing microgreens in some circumstances may be a more do-able, less time consuming option for busy individuals, families, folks living in high rise apartments or educators wanting to green the curriculum and sustain children’s engagement with nature and healthy whole food.
For those working in the Australian early childhood sector: growing microgreens might be one of the ways to help meet the Australian National Quality Standards and Regulations (ACECQA 2011) related to Standard 3 Physical Environment:
- 3.2.1 Providing children with quality nature-based experiences;
- 3.3 Services actively support environmental care and sustainability and,
- National Regulation 113. Outdoor space – natural environment.
Here are some suggested microgreens to grow:
- Lucerne (Alfalfa)
- Mung Bean
- Garlic Chives
- Salad greens
- Rocket (Arugula)
- Pak Choy
- Silverbeet (Chard)
- Beetroot (Beets)
- Coriander (Cilantro)
- Daikon Radish
Recently planted – Alfalfa, Rainbow Chard, Red Lentils & Fenugreek
ACECQA, 2011, Guide to the National Quality Standard, Australian Government, Canberra ACT, pp. 83-84.
Justin Russell, 2012, ‘Microgreens: fresh food fast’, Organic Gardener, Jan/Feb, pp. 30-34.
Fionna Hill, 2011, How to Grow Microgreens – Nature’s Own Superfood, David Bateman, New Zealand.