Those looking to grow food that can take their meals to another level can’t go wrong with microgreens, local experts say.
The tender, very young greens often used as a flavorful garnish in restaurant salads can easily be grown and used at home, too.
“They are so tender, and they are delicious and spicy, sweet or sour,” says Elizabeth Beak of Crop Up, a community-based food consulting organization. “I cut them and put them on my sandwiches. For me, it’s this very fresh, easy way to grow food. They are nutrient-dense and that’s fantastic.”
“Just clip the tops to make some very beautiful food,” Beak says.
Microgreens are vegetables harvested one to two weeks after planting and grown in soil and sunlight. Experts say they should not be confused with sprouts, which are germinated in water for a couple of days, just long enough to grow roots.
One prominent study, led by Gene Lester, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concludes that the leaves of many microgreens contain four to six times more nutrients than leaves of their mature counterparts.
Beak says she grows microgreen varieties of the same vegetables she would grow as mature ones. In fact, she says she’ll try to grow the microgreen variety of almost any vegetable that has an edible leaf, including purple mizuna and hong vit, beets and radishes, basil, chards and kohlrabi.
She plants them close together in a tray, much closer together than the seed packet, Beak says. She harvests every two weeks and usually can get one or two cuts. Microgreen sprouting kits are sold online, and growing them would be a great indoor classroom projects because students would get almost instant gratification.
Beak’s interest in microgreens piqued while working with Maria Baldwin, owner of Our Local Foods, at Thornhill Farm. Baldwin has been growing microgreens for about three years, since local chefs were asking for some grown locally, she says.
There is really nothing difficult about growing them, Baldwin says. Space the seeds close together in the shallow soil; cut them and put them in cold water; take them out of the water and let them air dry. Then place them in a container in the refrigerator, where they should last about a week.
While they are most often tossed into a salad, they can be used in hot dishes, too, she says.
“You can take that little cold, crisp element and add it, and it really becomes a surprise element.
The mustards are little bit spicy, and basil has a nice aromatic flavor.
Those who want to try some microgreens before growing them can check Earthfare and Whole Foods.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.
Microgreens frequently are mixed with other vegetables in salads. But they also can be used to flavor sandwiches and hot dishes.×
Arugula, cilantro, daikon and mixed mustards are some of the more popular microgreens.×