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Nutritious microgreens are easy to grow at home

By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Ag Communications

picture of microgreens Nutritious microgreens, such as these Hong Vit radishes, can be grown indoors year-round or outdoors during warmer months, and are a tasty addition to salads. (Photos by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Consumers interested in homegrown, healthy foods without the commitment of a full-sized garden should consider growing microgreens.

Lelia Kelly, Extension professor of horticulture, said microgreens are a form of young, edible greens grown from vegetable, herb or other plant seeds. They can be used as a garnish or added to foods to add color or flavor.

For home gardeners who want to grow microgreens on their own, Kelly said the process is similar to growing any type of leafy green, just with an earlier harvest date.

“Most microgreens are ready to harvest within 14 days of germination,” she said. “Harvest is done by cutting at the ground level when the plants are one to 1.5 inches tall. As with any other leafy green, plants require light, water and a good growing medium or soil mix.”

Gary Bachman, Southern Gardening columnist and horticulturist with MSU’s Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said microgreens can be grown in anything that will hold a peat-based media.

“You want something that is not too deep but not too shallow, ideally something like bedding plant trays,” Bachman said. “You can grow microgreens outdoors in warm weather, but they can be grown indoors year-round with appropriate amounts of light, usually 16 hours on, 8 hours off to get the plants in a growing rhythm.”

Seed is sown on top of the soil and tamped down. Harvest rates vary.

“You can grow different microgreens to different stages,” Bachman said. “Take the radish – from seeding to harvest is anywhere from six to nine days. Bok choys are harvested after about 10 days. Slower growing varieties, such as kale take 16 to 17 days.

“But you have to buy seeds in bulk or you’ll go broke, because they require dense sowing,” he said.

Microgreens taste like their adult counterparts, and like most plants, they require consistent but not excessive moisture.

“The beauty of microgreens is that they taste like what they are, so eating radish microgreens tastes just like you’re crunching into a radish,” Bachman said. Easy-to-grow microgreens include bok choys, mustards and radishes. Microgreens make a tasty salad.”

Once the small seedlings are cut, the soil should be composted or used in other areas of the garden.

“Because of the potential for mold and fungi issues, it’s best not to reuse the soil with another batch of microgreens,” Bachman said.

Much of microgreens’ recent popularity may be attributed to anecdotal claims of significant nutritional benefits. A recent study conducted by a researcher at the University of Maryland and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that some varieties of microgreens have nutrient concentrations four to 40 times that of mature plants.

“This study is the first scientific evaluation of the nutritional value of microgreens,” Kelly said. “Certainly follow-up research is needed using more types of greens and other variables to verify these initial research claims.”

Dawn Vosbein, a registered dietitian and Extension nutrition and food safety area agent in Pearl River County, said all green, leafy vegetables are rich in vitamin A, folic acid, potassium and magnesium.

“Microgreens are certainly more tender, taste better raw and can be used in a variety of ways, not just for salads,” she said. “Add some to your eggs in the morning or cook them in lasagna or meatloaf to increase vegetable content.”

For more information, read Gary Bachman’s Southern Gardening column on growing microgreens this winter at http://msucares.com/news/print/sgnews/sg12/sg120117.html or watch this episode of Southern Gardening TV at http://msucares.com/news/SGTV/video/2012/020112.html.

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Released: December 18, 2012
Contact: Dr. Lelia Kelly, (662) 566-2201; Dr. Gary Bachman, gbachman@ext.msstate.edu; Dawn Vosbein, dawnv@ext.msstate.edu

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