Want to feel excited about salads again? Tired of the same old spring mix and romaine hearts? If you're looking to add color, flavor, and nutrition to your diet—and try a new kitchen project—it's time to start growing your own microgreens.
This new gardening trend is simple, fun, and cost-effective, too. If you’ve ever bought a clamshell of microgreens at the supermarket, you know they’re not cheap—and if you’re not careful, they’ll go bad before you’ve finished the container.
Luckily, growing your own is easy, affordable, and will yield great results. And best of all, you can grow microgreens right in your own kitchen.
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are the stem and first few sets of leaves a seed grows when it germinates. They include cotyledons—the very first leaves a seed grows—as well as the first set of “true leaves,” which typically emerge after the cotyledons do. Cotyledons are often rounded or heart-shaped, while the first true leaves will look like a tiny version of the plant’s full-sized leaf.
While they’re similar in some ways, microgreens are different from sprouts, which you can also grow at home. Sprouts are germinated without soil, and the entire baby plant from root to stem to leaves is typically eaten. Microgreens are grown in soil or a hydroponic growing medium, and only the leaves and upper portion of the stem are harvested and eaten.
How to Use Microgreens in Cooking
These tiny, tender greens are typically harvested when only two inches tall, but they bring a lot to your plate: fresh flavors, crisp textures, beautiful colors, and cute shapes. Simply snip the stems when you need them, give them a quick rinse and dry, and put them in or on just about anything.
The possibilities are endless for these small stems. Microgreens make a great garnish on dishes like falafel or avocado toast, are perfect added to salads, and sit nicely atop sandwiches, burgers, and wraps. You can also sprinkle them on top of soup or pizza just before serving, or blend them into fragrant pesto or salsa.
What Kind of Microgreens Can You Grow?
Many of our favorite vegetables and herbs make great microgreens. Go for greens like kale, mustard, arugula, and lettuces, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. To add shades of pink, red, and purple to your cooking, seek out amaranth, beets, and radish.
But it’s not just about greens—larger seeds like sunflower, buckwheat, and peas add texture to micro mixes. To add subtle flavor, grow herbs like basil, cilantro, sorrel, and peppery nasturtium, as well as alliums like onions and leeks. You can even grow corn, chrysanthemum, and celery as microgreens.
How to Grow Your Own Microgreens
Growing your own microgreens is easy to do in your own kitchen. All you need is a warm place near a sunny windowsill and a few basic supplies.
What You Need
- Fresh potting soil
- A shallow vessel like a grow pot, a disposable pie pan, takeout container, or plastic salad container
- A tray or lipped plate or saucer to hold your container
- Seeds of your choice
- A spray bottle or mister of water
- If your container does not have holes in the bottom, poke several holes for drainage. This will keep your microgreens from getting waterlogged.
- Fill the container with one to two inches of fresh soil. Moisten the soil with a spritz or two of water if needed.
- Gently pat the soil with your hand to just flatten the surface, but take care not to compress the soil.
- Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the surface of the soil. Gently pat the seeds into the soil with your fingers and spread a very thin layer of soil over the seeds.
- If your container has a clear plastic cover, you can place that on top of the container or even use a piece of plastic wrap. If you prefer to keep the container open, moisten the soil by misting it evenly with a few spritzes from your spray bottle.
- Place the container in a warm place near a window that gets at least four hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Continue spritzing once or twice a day or keep the container covered until your seeds begin to sprout, which will usually happen after about seven days. Remove the cover if using and continue spritzing one to two times each day to keep the soil moist.
- When your microgreens grow their first sets of true leaves, usually around 14 days after planting, they are ready to harvest. Gently hold a handful of microgreens by their leaves and use your other hand to trim them just above the soil line with a pair of clean, sharp scissors.
- Rinse and dry your microgreens with a dish towel or paper towels or in a salad spinner, then serve and enjoy immediately.
- Place any unused cut microgreens in a plastic baggie with a paper towel in it. Store in your refrigerator’s crisper or produce drawer.