Growing your own micro greens or sprouts is a great activity to undertake. Both are very easy to do and have a fast turnaround time from seed to plate. A wide variety of people grow their own microgreens and sprouts as they tick the boxes for many people for many reasons.
These vegetables can be grown inside on the kitchen bench or another suitable spot, which is great if you are renting or you don't have space for a garden.
Growing microgreens and sprouts is a great introduction to growing your own food for those who have never gardened or don't like getting their hands dirty. And for those who love all things gardening and growing, this provides a wet-day plant-growing activity.
With the use of sprouts and microgreens prevalent in fine-dining restaurants around the world and shown on cooking shows there is a lot of interest in growing your own at home.
In the home they are great as a garnish to soups, stir-fries, added to a salad or alongside a meal. They are also great in a sandwich.
Microgreens are vegetable seedlings that are harvested when they are small and leafy.
The seed itself is not eaten. Growing microgreens from seed is relatively straight forward. Simply select your seed, fill a tray with seed raising mix, ensure it is spread out evenly and firmly. Sprinkle the seeds across the mix and then cover with a thin layer of seed raising mix as per depth indicated on the seed packet (this may vary depending on the variety). Water the mix thoroughly and then place the tray in a warm dark place or cover with newspaper in a warm place. Check your seedlings regularly. As they are germinating, remove the newspaper and shift the tray to a light, warm area. Water as necessary and in 10-14 days from germination you should be harvesting your own microgreens.
For ease of harvesting, microgreens are best sown in seedling trays, ensuring that the seed raising mix fills the tray nearly to the brim. It is far easier to trim your harvest off just above soil level, than if they are sown in pots that are only part filled with mix.
After harvesting your microgreens, they unfortunately do not re-grow. The tray filled with seed raising mix along with the base and roots of the microgreen should be emptied into the compost bin.
Four easy-to-grow varieties from Mr Fothergill's are:
• Microgreens Flavours of the Orient: a blend of mustard ruby streaks, garland chrysanthemum & coriander.
• Microgreens Flavours of Eastern Europe: a blend of pink kale, red cabbage and peas.
• Microgreens Flavours of Western Europe: a blend of cress, amaranth red garnet and peas.
• Microgreens Flavours of the Mediterranean: a blend of Italian mixed basil varieties, rocket and sunflowers.
In reality you can grow any vegetable seedling as a microgreen by harvesting them at this stage of development. A microgreen can range in size from 2.5cm to 7.5cm including the stem and leaves. This usually includes a central stem, fully developed cotyledon leaves (baby leaves) and one pair of small true leaves. At this point they should be harvested with scissors just above the soil.
Because they are so quick to grow from sowing to harvest, microgreens are great for kids to grow, a neat project for the classroom or the school holidays. They grow well indoors as long as they are given good light, so make a good vegetable for growing and harvesting during winter months.
Sprouts can be grown all year round and have a wide variety of uses including as a garnish, salad topping, as a healthy snack, in sandwiches or stir fries. Often regarded as a "superfood", they are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals.
They are grown from seeds, as with microgreens, but are harvested at the "sprout" stage before they have developed sets of leaves. As such, it is the seed that is also being eaten along with the developing stems and initial sprout. It is important to use seeds specifically recommended for sprouts to ensure they have not been chemically treated in any way. Sprouts need to be grown in a sprouter. These can be bought at the garden centre and consist of four growing trays and a bottom tray that collects water that has filtered down from the layers above.
Each layer can be used to grow different varieties of sprouts or started on different days to give a continuous harvest as one-layer finishes another is starting.
Mr Fothergill's Kitchen Seed Sprouters can be bought instore along with sprout seed packets including: Mung Bean, Alfalfa, Hot & Spicy Mix, Stir Fry Mix, Asian Mix, Wheatgrass, Snow Pea.
• Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre.