Just because winter has arrived doesn’t mean you need to give up on growing edible crops with your children till next year. A simple indoor growing project that you probably did as a child, has been reinvented for the 21st century, with the added bonus of a better understanding of its nutritional benefits.
Microgreens are small seedlings of edible herbs and vegetables that can be grown indoors at any time of year and make an excellent windowsill project for children. They include seeds that most of us will be familiar with like cress and mung beans, but also include vegetables we are normally more used to eating when they are mature, like kale and broccoli.
These easy to grow seedlings have become popular recently because people have become increasingly aware of their nutritional benefits. These young plants are packed with antioxidants and contain 40 times more nutrients than the mature plants
They are harvested with scissors when the seedlings are only a couple of weeks old and are easy to replant throughout the year.
Reasons to grow microgreens with children
- Quick results – Most seeds will sprout in about 4 days, harvest within 2 weeks
- Indoor growing – You can have them growing on a windowsill so you don’t need outside space
- Plant at any time of the year – Microgreens can be grown all year round when planted indoors
- Packed with nutrients – If you are going to persuade your children to eat anything, microgreens are one of the healthiest options
- Easy to eat – Can be put into kids sandwiches, salads or pasta dishes in their packed lunch or used in smoothies
What to buy
In the UK, several of the big seed manufacturers including Mr Fothergills, Johnsons & Unwins both sell seed packets labeled as ‘microgreens’. If you look closely you’ll see that these are actually more familiar plants repacked and sold under this popular new heading. Its worth considering that you may find it easier and cheaper to get hold of some of the seeds sold under their original names (see list below) although ones sold as ‘microgreens’ may also be specially selected for flavour.
Many seeds sellers have latched on to the microgreens trend by selling kits that contain seeds with some form of shallow seed tray or dish to go with it. Often the dishes will be stacking so you can grow several different types of greens in their own shallow dishes.
But don’t worry, you don’t need anything complicated to start, a shallow seed tray is perfect, but failing that you can also reuse a plastic food container like a margarine tub or a yoghurt pot. You may have already tried growing cress ‘heads’ in eggshells with your child and you can do the same with these new small seedlings too.
If you are growing indoors, you may wish to purchase trays without drainage holes or else you’ll need to ensure the trays are placed on newspaper to absorb any water that drains out of them.
What plants are considered to be microgreens?
Caring for your microgreens
The easiest way to water your seedlings is with a spray water bottle. Pouring water on the seedlings risks dislodging their tiny roots from the soil.