Sproutpeople and Micro-Greens
We first grew Micro-Greens back in 1994. We were way ahead of the curve. Nobody was interested in them - not our farmers market customers, not our food stores (co-ops, natural food stores and grocery stores we delivered to every week), not our restaurants, nobody! That did change some as the years passed, but we were always Sprout People first. Frankly, we prefer Sprouts to Micros because we find them plumper and more texturally pleasing - but we keep working with them. Some seeds (especially mucilaginous seeds) won't grow as sprouts and Micro-Greens are SO gorgeous and offer a lot of unique and really cool possibilities.
Soaking and Pre-Sprouting
Though our instructions (in the Growing Instructions Tab - to the left) suggest these steps (for non-mucilaginous seeds), we have found them less and less necessary as we've worked with Micro-Greens.
We skip both now, concentrating first on thoroughly moistening our medium. We then plant the seeds (which are just spread atop that thoroughly moistened medium), and mist them with a Spray Bottle. We then cover our planted seeds. We mist them with a Spray Bottle at least once a day until they sprout, and then bury their roots in the medium. During those first 2-3 days we are misting heavily, to keep the medium thoroughly moist as well as the seeds.
We uncover the plants at different stages, depending on what we are doing with a particular crop. Keep reading to learn more.
When growing on a soilless medium like Baby Blanket or Tencel STG Pads it is advisable to use Liquid Kelp Feritlizer to give your plants additional nutrients to draw upon. When we use Kelp we dilute 1 tsp. in 1 quart of water (this is a higher concentration than the product label calls for). We use it in a Spray Bottle or by watering the medium directly. We use it every time we water. The perfect container for these soilless mediums is our inexpensive Compostable Tray.
If you plant on soil - or better yet with Coconut Coir (our FAVorite), mix in 25% Earthworm Castings for the ultimate nutrient rich, moisture retaining planting medium. Mix them together thoroughly before moistening.
There are varying opinions of what constitutes a Micro-Green. Traditionally it is just a plant grown to the Cotyledon (first leaf) stage, and cut above the medium upon which it is planted.
When we grow to this stage; we either grow on Baby Blanket, soil (any kind will do) , or our new favorite - Coconut Coir. Baby Blanket is less messy and works fine and dandy. We cut a piece to fit a plate, then we follow our own instructions for keeping the medium and seeds-sprouts thoroughly moist. We use another of the same size plate - inverted - as a cover. We uncover our plants when they are about 1/2 inch tall, or when they are hitting the covering plate. We then expose them to all the light our kitchen has to offer. We even use direct sunlight when available. We have to water them more often when we do this. When it comes to watering, We mist them with a Spray Bottle until the seeds have firmly rooted. After that - when growing on a piece of Baby Blanket on a plate; pour water directly onto the plate. We gently tip and turn the plate so as much water as possible gets soaked up by the Baby Blanket, and then pour off most of the excess.
When growing on soil or Coconut Coir; we continue to spray with the Spray Bottle, but we keep the medium moist by adding water directly to the plate or solid tray it is sitting on. We allow the medium to drink up what water it can, and then gently pour off the excess. Leaving a little water on the plate is fine - it will get sucked up before your next watering. If it doesn't, you are leaving too much water behind.
There are some nowadays who want a Micro-Green to be a plant which puts out a True Leaf before they'll call it a Micro-Green. We find that concept Very interesting, so we have worked to make that happen.
The first thing is to plant less seed. Just how much is the question. The general rule is this: The more space your plant has to grow roots - the bigger it can grow.
We are currently using 1/4 teaspoon in a 5x5 inch tray. That leaves quite a bit of room between the seeds-plants, but gives them enough space to grow to the True Leaf stage. This can take 2 weeks or more. The main thing that is needed is More Light. Plants get "leggy" when they need to reach for light. We use that to our advantage in all other circumstances in the Sprout World, but here we want to minimize the legginess of the plants. If you can put a light right above your crop - or keep it in direct sunlight, that will help. Keep everything adequately moist. Remember - the more light the faster the medium and plants will dry. This may sound like a lot more work, but really it isn't much more than usual.
We cover the seeds only until they have sprouted when growing this way. We plant on Coconut Coir (which hold moisture like nothing else we've ever worked with) enriched with 25% Earthworm Castings, which add nitrogen that a plant uses to grow leaves. When making up the mix, do not exceed 25% Earthworm Castings as too much nitrogen can burn your plants (they actually whither and die when the soil is too "hot" - which means it has too much nitrogen). Mix the castings into the base Coconut Coir, or soil (any kind will work, though we do not advise mixes that are heavily peat moss as we find it hard to work with and we don't find the crop turns out as well) - it is the roots that will need access to the rich medium.
If growing a mix, not all of the plants will grow True Leaves at the same time. Keep growing until most have them. Harvest then and eat them up. Though you can store Micro-Greens, they degrade quickly, and since you have put so much work in these - you should enjoy them at their peak.
The Next Variation
The next obvious step (to us anyway) we find really exciting. It is to grow even fewer seeds into even fewer plants. Those plants will grow more leaves. They will be more like Baby-Greens than Micro-Greens. They will require more time. They may re-grow more quickly because they'll have a bigger root-mass. The container (tray, pot, etc.) they grow in will likely be too small for that root-mass to live long, but it's possible. When it comes right down to it, we're talking about an indoor-garden. All the other stuff we offer is about indoor gardening, but this is more like a garden. Not many of us have space in our homes to Garden inside, but we love the idea. We're working on this, and we'll tell you what we find out as soon as we know something. It was gardening that eventually led us to sprouting. We feel like this is closing that circle started so long ago - now it is sprouting leading back to gardening @:-) Start with Coconut Coir enriched with Earthworm Castings and you'll have a great experience. Happy Micro-Greening!
When growing Micro-Greens we start with a thoroughly moistened Medium, upon which we spread our dry seed, and then cover with a plate. The seed of most Brassicas is virtually identical. What you are seeing here is both Green Kale seed (on the left) and Red Russian Kale seed (on the right). Can You see the difference?;-)
We are using our Stainless Steel Sprouter (hence the plate), filled 3/4 full (more is even better) with our mix of 80% Coconut Coir, 20% Earthworm Castings, and 20% Vermiculite. Thoroughly moist means saturated, but not dripping.
24 hours later we are already seeing germination. Your crop remains covered, but there isn't much of a photo op in that, so this is what they look like - under the covering plate. You don't have to do anything to grow this crop except remove the cover, and I'll tell you when to do that - a few pictures down.
Same time - just closer. The fuzzy stuff you see is Not mold - those are Root Hairs - microscopic roots which grow off the tap (main) root. They are good. They are beautiful. If you have a magnifying glass, take a look. When we see Root Hairs on sprouts they disappear after Rinsing because the water makes them fall back along the tap root. Since we are not watering our Micros they stay visible. If you were to water now they would vanish. Enjoy them.
12 hours later.
Same time. Here's another look at those lovely Root Hairs.
12 hours later.
A closer look at the same time.
A mere 12 hours later.
We can really see which side is Red Kale now.
Look at what happens after just 12 hours of light!
12 hours later.
This is 24 hours later - just for a change of pace =;-)
As you've likely noticed, the Green Kale grows taller faster.
That isn't always the case, but it's common enough.
You can Harvest now if you wish. Actually you can harvest any time you like. Cut a few Micro-Greens off and see how you like their texture. That is the main thing that'll change as you continue to grow. Younger = more tender, but they remain texturally pleasing for several more days, at least. Harvesting is just a matter of cutting them off close to the Medium.
24 hours later.
This is just the Red Russian Kale Micros.
Since I planted on that lovely Medium I described under the first picture - I didn't water my crop at all - until just after I took this picture.
I was cutting some off every day, but I didn't take this picture until 6 more days passed.
These are fresh cut and DElicious as well as gorgeous!
I'm writing this a week after I took this picture and I still have some growing as I seek True Leaves. I've got some, but the crop is not nearly as tender - though they still taste awesome.
My advice is to harvest when they are all Cotyledons (the first leaves), but experiment for yourself and see what you like best.
Micro-Greens don't store very well and they are Perfection when freshly cut, so eat 'em up and start another crop sprout farmer =:-)
Cultivar: Red Russian