Grow fresh and local greens year long? Yes, it’s possible! When it is too cold outside for your vegetable garden, you can still turn to indoor gardening. There are three types of what we will now call “microgreens”: sprouts, shoots and baby greens. To grow them yourself is easy and fun, the kids are learning and you are reducing transportation and packaging of your food. You are also avoiding nutrients loss that happens from farm to table.
Here’s all you need to know to grow your own greens… and keep them at hand! For specific information about the seeds you are using, go check out the bottom of this page.
NB: Warning! Thoroughly clean all the tools you use, wash your hands well and choose seeds that are sold specifically for sprouting, to avoid risks of contamination. Ideal conditions for sprouting are also ideal conditions for bacteria such as E. Coli. Health Canada recommends to rinse sprouts and microgreens before consumption.
What? First stage in the plant’s life, sprouting comes just after the seed’s awakening.
Why? Sprouting helps to get rid of the seed’s enzymes that interfere with digestion and multiplies the nutrient content of the plant. The “newborn” is full of energy for its growth.
How long? 2 to 7 days
How? In a sprouter or a Mason jar, with water
Equipment: Bowl for soaking + sprouter OR Mason jar of 500 mL + perforated lid or cheesecloth with an elastic + bowl
1- Rinse 1 tablespoon of seeds and soak them in lukewarm water for the specified amount of time (usually between 4 and 8 hours).
2- Drain water and rinse, then place your seeds in the sprouter or in the Mason jar, closed with a special lid for sprouting or a piece of cheesecloth and an elastic. If you are using a Mason jar, place it upside down in a bowl, giving it an angle so that the water drains, but that air can circulate. Avoid direct sunlight.
3- Rinse twice daily until your sprouts are ready (between 2 and 7 days, according to your seeds). It is normal to see small white rootlets, but there should not be mold or very strong odor.
4- Rinse well one last time, then let them dry a few hours or put them in a salad spinner, before storing in the refrigerator.
What? If you wait a few more days and if you use soil, you will get young shoots, crispier and tastier than sprouts.
Why? Shoots contain more fiber than sprouts, while still containing a lot of nutrients.
How long? 7 to 21 days
How? Using soil
Equipment: Plastic tray (with a dome if possible), organic soil, growth lamp if you do not have access to a well-lit windowsill
1- If your seeds need soaking, cover them with water and soak.
2- Fill the bottom of a tray with 1 or 2 inches of soil, and moisten it well.
3- Sow your seeds on top. Just make sure that they do not overlap. Press them lightly in the ground or sprinkle a little soil on top.
4- Place your tray on a windowsill or near a source of natural light. You can also use an artificial light that provides the appropriate wavelenght for the plant growth.
5- Spray water 1 to 2 times a day to keep the soil moist. A dome helps retain moisture.
6- Harvest when shoots have their first two “leaves” – that are actually cotyledons and do not have the same shape as the true leaves – by cutting at the base of the stems.
7- Rince well and store in the fridge. Compost the soil.
What? It is also possible to grow baby greens, like young lettuce or mesclun.
Why? For fresh salads even during the winter months! Growing your own mesclun is much more economic and ecologic than buying a plastic packaging at the grocery store.
How long? 21 days and more
How? Using soil and light
Equipment: Plastic tray, organic soil, growth lamp
1- The procedure is the same as for shoots, but this time you cannot make it without light!
2- Your baby greens are ready after about 3 weeks, according to what you grow. You can also harvest gradually, picking the outer leaves when you need it.
How to sprout (French only)
Here are some resources that can help you start your indoor garden:
What’s for dinner?
Microgreens enliven salads and sandwiches, but you can also use them as a base for your salads, as a topping on a soup or a meal, to decorate some tapas, to add nutrients to a smoothie or to add crunch to spring rolls! Sweet or spicy, tender or crunchy, microgreens are a nice addition to your diet!