If you can find space on a sunny windowsill for a few small containers, you can grow microgreens and shoots at home. They’re easy to grow with most ready to harvest within two weeks of seeding. Plus, they’re packed with nutrients and add garden fresh flavours to sandwiches, salads, pastas, and stir-fries.
Microgreens and shoots are both baby plants, but harvested at different stages of growth.
You generally eat shoots at the first leaf stage, about one week from seeding. Popular types of shoots include sunflowers, corn, broccoli, basil, and peas.
Microgreens are immature salad greens harvested two to three weeks after planting. Crops like arugula, kale, lettuce, and chard are excellent choices for gourmet baby salads.
When buying seeds, look for packets intended for microgreen or shoot growing. If you can’t find seeds at your local garden centre, companies like Halifax Seed or Veseys offer a good selection online.
Soak your seeds for 2–4 hours before planting to speed up germination.
Planting is fast and easy, with no need for fancy equipment. Use shallow trays, pots, or even plastic salad or strawberry containers to grow these pint-sized plants.
Use a quality potting mix like Pro-Mix and moisten the soil before planting. Fill the tray or container with 2.5–5 cm of damp potting mix.
Ensure your container has drainage holes; add some if necessary to prevent waterlogged soil. Slip a saucer or tray under the containers to collect excess water.
Sprinkle the seeds densely over the soil surface. They should be just touching or almost touching. Cover with a thin layer of soil and gently press down to ensure good soil-seed contact. Water or mist the soil.
Once seeded, move the tray to a bright window or place under grow-lights. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soaking wet. Check daily, watering when necessary.
Fuss-free microgreens and shoots make fun indoor growing projects for children. For younger kids, stick to largeseeded crops like pea or sunflower shoots that are easy to sow. Older kids will enjoy experimenting with the range of flavours and colours found in crops like chard, arugula, radishes, and mizuna. Give them popsicle sticks and markers to make labels for each type of crop and let them help when it’s time to harvest.
For a non-stop succession of healthy microgreens and shoots, start a fresh container of seeds every few weeks. Shoots are ready to harvest with scissors when the first set of leaves appears. Snip micro greens when they’re 5–7.5 cm tall. Give the greens a quick rinse and enjoy.
Great greens to grow
SUNFLOWER SHOOTS (1–2 WEEKS) Sunflower shoots are super kid-friendly with a nutty flavour and pleasing crunch. They elevate a sandwich from simple to sublime and are great sprinkled in soups or on salads. As they grow, run your hand across the tops of the shoots to knock the seed coats from the young plants.
CORN SHOOTS (1–2 WEEKS) Delicate and grassy, corn shoots have a mild, sweet flavour that my family loves to nibble straight from the plant. Of course, they’re also tasty in salads and sandwiches. For extra-tender corn shoots, place the newly seeded container in a dark room for 1–2 weeks. As the plants grow, the leaves will blanch and be pale yellow in colour.
PEA SHOOTS (2–3 WEEKS) With the bright flavour of spring peas, pea shoots are popular in restaurants and farmers markets. But they’re also very easy to grow at home and are ready to harvest in two to three weeks. The tender shoots are delicious in sandwiches, stir-fries, and tacos, or added to pasta in the last moments of cooking.
MILD OR SPICY MICROGREEN MIXES (2–3 WEEKS) Many seed companies offer microgreen blends, with a mix of mild or spicy greens. A mild-flavoured mix includes seeds for crops like kale, cabbage, and mizuna, while spicy greens like mustards offer more of a kick to adventuresome palates.