Have you ever been to a trendy restaurant or had an upscale dining experience and when you receive your meal, there are mysterious-looking greens garnishing your food? Greens that resemble clovers or some form of unknown sprouts?
Those, my friend, are known as microgreens and they are everywhere these days. They are beautiful to look at, add some pizzazz to any dish and they are packed with nutrients! But, what exactly are they?
What are microgreens?
“Microgreens” is simply a marketing term used to refer to small, edible greens that are grown from the seeds of various vegetables and herbs.
They fall somewhere in the middle of baby greens and sprouts in terms of size and possess a vibrant flavor that makes them perfect for garnishing anything from salads to soups to a piece of perfectly cooked fish.
Although this variety of greens seems relatively new and trendy as of late, they have been used by chefs since the 1980s, starting in San Francisco. At one point, only arugula, basil, cilantro, kale and beets existed as an option for microgreens.
However, now, that number has grown to over 25 different varieties. They are not only aesthetically pleasing to look at on a plate but they also pack a punch when it comes to nutritional value.
What are the nutritional benefits of microgreens?
Microgreens are small in size but provide a number of important nutrients. Studies have found that these little seedlings of vegetables and herbs are loaded with vitamins such as vitamin C, E and K, lutein, and beta-carotene.
One study from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found that when you compare equal weights of microgreens to the mature leaves from the same plant, the tiny greens contained around five times more nutrients as a whole. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!
Of course, the nutritional value of the greens varies across the different types of plants and vegetables and cannot act as a complete replacement for mature vegetables.
However, they can be a great component to add to your diet to cover any gaps you may be missing with traditional herbs and vegetables.
Microgreens are not without faults. They can be incredibly pricey and can also be hard to find in your local grocery stores. Luckily, next to herbs, they are some of the easiest plants to grow at home and can be grown indoors with a little help from LED lighting.
What are the benefits of growing microgreens with LED lights?
As stated before, microgreens can be grown indoors fairly easily by using an artificial grow lamp, such as LED lights. They require soil and a lot of light to grow but otherwise are very low maintenance and will yield produce all year long. There are plenty more benefits to growing your greens this way.
Using a growing lamp, such as this option, is a great idea, especially for beginners as you have much more control over the growth process and how much light your little sprouted plants are receiving.
Many times, the grow lamps will have a timer option that you can set so you can ensure that the plants are receiving the same amount of light per day. Much easier than setting them near a window where you have no control over the sun’s placement or if it will be a cloudy day or not!
By using an LED grow light, many people are able to grow fresh produce, like microgreens, in an environment that is not ideal for plants to thrive, think dark basements, low-lit apartments, you name it!
LED grow lights, like this option from Amazon, are also beneficial as they are light, consume a lot less electricity, produce very little heat, and only give plants the blue and red ends of the spectrum which is what plants absorb.
Other light sources also emit green and yellow light which plants end up reflecting away, which is inefficient and a waste of energy. Using an LED lamp speeds up the growing process and produces the healthiest, most abundant plants possible without natural sunlight.
Microgreens need soil to grow and because of this require a box or container to grow them in. Lucky for the indoor gardener, there are varieties of LED growing lamps that are all in one such as this one or this one found on Amazon.
The best part of growing with these types of LED grow lights is that they are small and can be placed on any countertop or shelf and will look great too!
So, what is the process to get your very own microgreen garden started?
The process is relatively simple to get started and the most work you’ll have to do is getting your seedlings ready to be placed under your lamps!
- The first step in the process is to soak your seeds in water overnight and then let them air out in the same bowl you used to soak them in.
- After those steps are complete, you should begin to see little sprouts coming out of your seedlings. This is your indication that it is time to transfer them to your growing medium, i.e. the soil.
- The seeds will then need to be germinated for some time. This can be done in soil in any plastic container or box that comes with your grow light. During this time, the seeds do not need light.
- After they have properly germinated, this is where your LED grow lamp comes in! The sprouted seedlings require about 4 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.
- Finally, it will be time to harvest your microgreens! The timing of this will depend on what microgreens you are growing.
Using LED lamps during the growing process is by far the lowest maintenance option for growing your microgreens indoors.
As outlined in this article, you can see that not only are microgreens great for garnishing foods and packed with valuable nutrients, but they are super easy to grow inside with the help of an LED grow lamp. It’s a sustainable, simple, and convenient way to have fresh greens at your fingertips, year-round.
Do you have experience with LED grow lamps and microgreens? Leave your comments below!