What better way to celebrate the start of a new year than by leafing through seed catalogs? Shopping online is a perfect way to purchase during the frigid winter months but don’t discount the old school, satisfying feel of soft paper as catalog pages are turned. Add a hot cuppa and a soft blankie and life doesn’t get much better on a cold day.
An old favorite/new find this year? Microgreens.
Microgreens are the early shoots and leaves of plants grown from seed. The young, tasty, juicy stems and leaves will add a delicious and nutritious boost to everything on the plate. Microgreens are so easy and such a satisfying way to get tasty food fast.
To grow a crop of microgreens, plant seeds indoors anytime or outdoors when soil temps are right for each seed variety. For indoor plantings, use a good sterile seeding mix in a clean, disinfected container. Make sure to check the planting instructions to provide all variety specific growing conditions. Some seeds need light to germinate, others prefer darkness. Some seeds need warm soil, while others prefer cool temps all around. Keeping moisture levels steady and in the goldilocks range – not too much, not too little, just right – is key to a quick, successful germination.
Presoaking large, hard seeds overnight in clean water prior to planting can also be helpful, but not necessary if you have impatient helpers or limited time. The seeds will sprout no matter. After the seeds germinate, consider adding a good source for airflow to benefit shoot health and keep unwelcome health issues at bay. Replant often. Also, please plant seeds quite close together as they don’t require much real estate to get to the harvest stage.
Debating what to try? Check seed supplies from last year. There may be some great candidates hiding in the seed box. Look for, or buy new, buckwheat, peas, sunflowers, winter wheat, beets, mustard, corn, or even nasturtiums. Each has its own distinctive flavor. Buckwheat has a pleasant greens-like flavor, while pea shoots taste slightly and deliciously like peas. Nasturtium shoots are sweet with a hint of pepper and sunflower shoots have a lovely nutty taste.
Whichever is tried, the best shoot flavor will generally be found somewhere between the three- to five-inch-tall range. Give them a taste every half-inch to see where the flavor is most agreeable. If growing a big leaf type of plant e.g., nasturtium and sunflower, start checking the flavor and texture when the leaves are about a quarter inch across. Be aware that maximum flavor may not develop until leaves are about an inch across. Most shoots and leaves will be ready, seed to harvest, in one to three weeks. Taste buds differ. Adjust harvest dates accordingly.