Author: Antra Thada
There are a lot of trends going around which claim to help us achieve our nutritional goals. Some might work and some may not. But one thing about which we are collectively worried about is what we eat and what we feed to our loved ones. The population is rising at an alarming rate and food grown without chemicals is next to impossible to find. Sitting around and doing nothing will not solve this problem. Not everyone has sufficient space to grow vegetables and salad greens. This problem can be solved by switching to microgreens.
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are nothing but sprouted seeds of various green vegetables, also known as vegetable confetti. As the name suggests these are small plants of amaranth, cilantro, wheat grass, basil, broccoli, celery, purple and pink radish greens etc. Once the seeds sprout, the plant takes around 7-10 days for emergence of its first pair of leaves. These freshly sprouted leaves are packed with nutrients.
Many people are unaware of the benefits of microgreens. We all have heard from our elders to soak the seeds first and then consume them. Studies reveal that the soaked seeds have higher percentage of nutrients and proteins as compared to raw seeds. The same role is played by these little packets of energy and nutrients. The seeds absorb water and all its nutrients are transferred into the freshly sprouted pair of leaves. We cannot soak seeds of every vegetable and eat them. This problem can be solved by growing microgreens in vertical farming at home or in a home garden.
How to grow microgreens?
Microgreens can be easily grown in our urban houses with limited space. These plants can also be cultivated in dishes or in small kits in soil less culture known as hydroponics, in a home garden or even through rooftop organic farming. Just imagine, growing food with soil or with just water and nutrients in the comfort of our own home, isn’t this amazing?
One can easily purchase seeds for growing microgreens or vegetables. Sow the seeds in your backyard and water them on a regular basis. Hoeing of soil in regular intervals is necessary for proper aeration and easy development of roots. Compost can be prepared using the waste generated from our kitchen like fruits and vegetables peels, etc. Use this compost to provide nutrients to the plants. It might be a waste for us but can be very useful to the plants. Do not overcrowd them or else they won’t be able to develop properly.
For the microgreens I prefer using trays that can be stacked in vertical shelves as it saves a lot of space. This is growing the crops vertically. Seeds can also be soaked overnight for better germination. For the rest of the growing period keep shifting the trays so that the plants can receive proper light. They can grow in natural or artificial light. Nutritional media is available which can be added in soil or water to provide nutrients to the plants. Trays should be 3-4 inches deep and drainage holes should be made. The plants should be watered regularly. Their roots and top layer of soil should remain hydrated. It is best to water them twice a day by sprinkling with hand to maintain the humidity levels. You can even keep the trays in balconies or kitchen windows.
Commonly grown microgreens and their benefits
Most commonly grown microgreens in India are wheat grass, mustard, radish, kale, pak choi, celery, parsley, turnip, sweet pea, alfalfa, mint, basil, chia, lemon balm, spinach, amaranth, beets, chives, scallions, shallots, onions, garlic, arugula etc.
How to consume microgreens?
One of the benefits of consuming microgreens is that they offer a wide range of flavours. Their flavour profile ranges from sour to sweet or tangy to spicy. The most common and least time consuming method is to consume them in salads. Eating them raw keep their flavours intact and the leaves crisp. It is best to keep these small powerhouses away from cooking or heating. You can prepare any type of salad like fruit salad, sprouts salad or an egg salad and sprinkle them as salad dressings.
We Indians love our tea, don’t we? What could be better than consuming our favourite beverage with a variety of flavours added with the help of microgreens. Throw in some lemon grass or mint microgreen leaves in your tea along with ginger and black pepper and enjoy a perfectly healthy drink. You can also prepare delicious smoothies or juices with microgreen leaves. Drinks will help us to consume large number of healthy leaves without even realizing it. We can also change the taste of the drinks by adding different flavours of milks or fruits.
If you are not a huge fan of salads or smoothies you can even include microgreens in foods like sandwiches, pizzas, curries, omelettes etc. basically anything and everything. The kids usually run away from eating foods which look raw and leafy. So why not with some innovation present them with a meal which satisfies their palate as well as their nutritional requirements.
Microgreens are a good addition to our Indian cuisines too. We can prepare sauces and chutneys as an add on with mint, radish, mustard, basil or coriander leaves. They can be sprinkled as a dressing almost on all our vegetables, soups and curries. They can be used to enhance flavours of foods too.
If we have included microgreens in everything then why to leave desserts? Yes, it is true that they can also impart flavours to our desserts. Basil or mint microgreens will be a perfect addition to an ice-cream based dessert. Buckwheat microgreens can add a tangy flavour to your home made cake or pudding.
One of the main constraints with microgreens is that their quality and nutritional benefits decrease as soon as they are harvested. So it is advised to consume them as soon as you harvest them.
It will be easier to grow them once you get acquainted with the process. And as soon as you learn how to take care of your plants, it will be worth your time and effort. So let’s take a step away from our conventional food items and add flavours in our meals with the help of these microgreens. Make a list of your requirements, purchase them directly from us and start transforming your plate into a colourful mini garden.