The Magic of Microgreens

Try cultivating these affordable, fast-growing, delicious and versatile superfoods indoors this winter.

| January / February 2018


To grow a steady supply of microgreens at home, start a new tray each weekend and rotate them out.

Photo by GettyImages/MaximShebeko

While food companies scour the globe for the next big superfoods — goji berries, camu camu, lucuma and others — we can grow one of the most powerful superfoods indoors on our own countertops. Microgreens are among the most healthful and least expensive superfoods in the world. Although these tiny nutrient-packed greens have a short shelf life and aren’t available in many grocery stores, they are exceptionally easy to grow yourself.

Even the most novice gardener can keep a tray of microgreens alive because they only require about two weeks to reach maturity. Fortunately for us, microgreens can be grown indoors and year-round, which makes them a particularly appetizing option during winter months when backyard gardens are buried under snow and local greens can be hard to find.

According to research by the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Maryland, of the 25 types of microgreens tested, the top four most nutrient-dense were red cabbage, green daikon radish, cilantro and garnet amaranth. In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, researchers found that microgreens contain anywhere from four to 40 times as many nutrients as their full-grown vegetable counterparts — including vitamin C, carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) and vitamin E. In some cases, nutrient content is even higher. Red cabbage microgreens contain six times the vitamin C of their full-grown counterpart, and a whopping 69 times as much vitamin K. A study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry shows that when small amounts of microgreens are added to a daily diet, weight gain can halt while markers for heart disease plummet. Nutritional value is enough reason to eat more of these superfoods, but they’re also highly palatable for finicky eaters because they have a milder flavor than the mature vegetables.

How to Grow Microgreens Year-Round & Indoors 

1. Although specialty microgreen seed mixes are available, you don’t need to spend the extra money. Instead, use seeds for regular vegetables, herbs or grains that have a reputation for making delicious microgreens. Examples include broccoli, amaranth, radish, beet and mustard.

2. After you have your seeds, choose a sunny spot, such as in a windowsill, and set out a shallow tray (1-inch-deep is sufficient).

3. Spread a thin layer of organic potting soil in the tray.

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