Growing sprouts and microgreens is an easy way to eat more greens with minimal work, especially during the cold winter months. While the term sprouts and microgreens are often used as synonyms, the main difference is that microgreens are grown in a soil-based medium and only the stem and leaves are eaten, while sprouts are grown without soil and all parts of the plant including the roots are eaten. Both refer to young plants that are harvested typically for their seed leaves or first set of true leaves. Some varieties are ready to harvest in as little as 5 days and they can add lots of flavour and colour to your salads, soups, sandwiches and everyday eating.
Generally, sprouts don’t need very much light as they are harvested and eaten when they seed leaves emerge. Some varieties like mung beans should be grown in complete darkness otherwise they may be quite bitter tasting. All the energy for these leaves are stored in the seed itself, so supplemental light from the sun or growing lights generally isn’t needed. We like to keep things simple and use a mason jar with a metal mesh lid to prepare our sprouts. Other units like stacking trays or fabric pouches can also be used, but we prefer the ease and simplicity of a mason jar. Some of our favourite sprout varieties to grow include red cabbage and alfalfa.
Photo: Mixed sprouts growing in a mason jar
Microgreens, as mentioned above, are grown in a soil based media. We like to use small growing trays (like in our microgreen/wheatgrass growing kit) as it makes it easy to harvest without disturbing the other trays, portion control, and grow different varieties all in the same tray. For soil, we use a mix of organic worm castings as well as a commercial seed starting mix (we like using Sunshine Mix #4). Unlike outdoor growing where seeds are buried or lightly covered with soil, we place the seeds on top of the soil and wait for them to germinate. Because microgreens typically grow for longer periods of time and are grown past the seed leaf stage, placing the seeds near a sunny window (or underneath growing lights) will make for healthier and more vigorous microgreens. Some of our favourite microgreen varieties to grow include pea shoots, arugula, and sunflower.
Photo: Microgreen pea shoots
This is just a very brief overview of the process. For more tips and information, contact us for ideas on easy ways to incorporate sprouting and growing microgreens into your daily lifestyle and gardening tasks.