What Counts As A "Microgreen"?
[Picture: Chervil microgreens, 10 days old, credit KnowingNature] Posted by Rachel Haber, KnowingNature Founder & CEO on December 16, 2021
Not every plant should be grown as a microgreen, so I wrote this article to explain which plants are tasty and safe to grow as microgreens, and during which stage of their growth you can cut and eat them as microgreens.
What kind of plants can be grown as microgreens?
The plants that you can grow as microgreens include most vegetables (like radish, broccoli, kale and peas), most herbs (like parsley, basil and chervil), some grasses (like wheatgrass and barley), some flowers (like sunflowers, marigold and nasturium) and a small number of fruit (like cucumber and melon). Plants that are not grown as microgreens include nightshade vegetables (like tomato, pepper, eggplant and potato), trees and non-edible plants (like ivy, succulents and ornamental houseplants).
With the above categories in mind, it is worth noting that there is no authority with THE definitive list of plants that can and can't be grown as microgreens. Growers are experimenting with new varieties all the time and the list continues to expand. Below is a list of several popular & easy to grow greens that you can grow at home.
Several Easy to Grow Microgreens Varieties & Seeding Amounts for Your KnowingNature Planter
The "microgreens age" - at what age/size is a plant considered a microgreen?
Although many microgreens are small in size, the category of "microgreens" is actually describing the age/maturity of the plants rather than how big they are in size. Microgreens are plants that we eat when the leaves are very young and tender. We are harvesting the first leaves to spout from the seeds, and sometimes the 2nd "true set" of leaves as well. Plants reach this stage at different ages depending on how fast they grow. A large number of microgreens will reach this stage within 8-12 days of planting, and the majority of varieties reach this stage within 2 weeks of planting.
Age is NOT just a number when it comes to microgreens - it matters a lot. Every variety is different, and if you harvest past the ideal "microgreens age", the taste and texture of the greens will change, in some cases a lot. For example, we enjoy pea shoots raw when they are up to 10 days old. After 10 days, pea shoots become fibrous and taste better blended in smoothies or wilted into hot dishes. After 16 days, they lose their sweetness altogether and become too tough to enjoy. Look up the suggested "microgreens age" for the variety you are growing, and experiment for yourself what age tastes best to you. The table above includes the ideal microgreens age for each variety on the list.
A word on Sprouts vs. Microgreens.
Sprouts are not the same thing as microgreens, but in some places, especially outside of the US, people use the word "sprouts" to refer to microgreens. Sprouts are vegetable seeds (the same seeds as microgreens) that are germinated in jars and eaten before the leaves start turning green. Sprouts are incredibly nutritious in their own right. The method for growing sprouts is different and arguably more labor intensive than growing microgreens - seeds are soaked in water and rinsed 2 - 4 times a day for approximately 3 days. Sprouts carry a risk of contamination that does not exist with microgreens.
Learn more about growing: return to "How To Grow Microgreens At Home"
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