Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Sprouts and microgreens are not the same but both are very young plants that are harvested at different stages. Sprouts are eaten whole just after the seed has sprouted, seed and all.
Microgreens are small plants that have grown for a week to three weeks in soil. When a seed sprouts the seed leaves that come out of the soil first are called cotyledons. These leaves provide the “food” to give a plant the energy to grow its first true leaves.
Which seeds? Use organic seeds or seeds intended for this purpose. Some seeds are treated with chemicals such as fungicides and it is best to play it safe since you will be consuming at least some of the microgreens raw. Beans and sunflower microgreens are tasty, along with herbs and salad crops. Especially look for crops on which the leaves and the stems are normally consumed, such as lettuce, kale and Swiss chard. Baby radishes are delicious added to salads.
1. Trays and potting containers are available for sale but the easiest and most available are the clear containers in the produce departments of grocery stores. They are small to large in size and are usually purchased containing greens, slaw mix and salad mix. Scrub your containers and all your equipment because microgreens grow best in wet, warm places and you don’t want to transfer harmful bacteria, which is also the reason we use seeds specifically for this purpose.
2. Fill your tray with potting mix. Don’t use garden soil since it will compact when wet. Moisten the soil with a spray bottle full of water. Damp, but not dripping.
3. Generously sprinkle your seeds on toil of the soil. Gently tamp down the seeds or cover lightly with potting soil.
4. Mist again with a spray bottle then cover with the lid or plastic wrap. Check the seeds everyday to see if they have germinated and are still moist.
5. Remove the cover when sprouted and move to a location that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.
6. Water just enough to keep them from drying out. Overwatering will make them susceptible to fungal diseases.
7. Most people start eating them when they are about 2” tall or when the true leaves form. This is about 14 days, except for radishes and kale which are ready in seven days. Basil, Swiss chard and cilantro may take up to 20 days.
8. To harvest snip off the tops with scissors and wash the greens to remove any soil.
Don’t reuse the soil. I usually toss mine in the flowerbed or compost.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.