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Sustainable life: Mighty Microgreens

Mia Swainson

Food that looks good, tastes good.

Think back to your last meal in a nice restaurant and imagine the effort that went into those three different garnishes sitting perfectly around your poached fish. Were there microgreens?

Microgreens are essential to creating the beauty that we love in restaurant food. What are they? I hear you say. Microgreens are simply a tiny vegetable, harvested a few weeks after they emerge from the soil. You’ve probably had the microgreen versions of mustard, coriander, basil or red cabbage on a garnish in a glamorous restaurant.

As well as looking good, research has shown that they’re also packed with nutrients. The United States Department of Nutrition and Food Science have published a few studies on microgreen nutrients. All of these studies have found that microgreens contain nutrient densities that are between four and forty times higher than mature leaves. So, they’re good for you.

Here’s how you can get the beauty of a restaurant meal, with a burst of nutrition by growing microgreens at home.

Step 1. Choose a sunny spot

Preferably near the kitchen window to grow your microgreens. You’ll want to enjoy these mini plants as they sprout out of the soil and grow. If they’re near the kitchen, this will help you remember to use and water them.

Step 2. Find a pot that fits nicely into the space you’ve got available.

The pot doesn’t need to be deep, as you’ll be harvesting the microgreens before roots need a lot of space. You can make a recycled pot by cutting off the bottom two inches of a milk container and making a few holes for water to drain out.

Step 3. Fill up your pot with rich soil or potting mix.

Steer clear of fresh manure so that you don’t have to worry about it contaminating your kitchen.

Step 4. Choose your microgreen seeds.

You can grow almost any type of vegetable seedling, depending on your taste and desire for colour. Here are some popular microgreens that you might like to try:

  • Red cabbage and Beetroot – lovely rich colour
  • Coriander and Basil – aromatic flavour
  • Mustard, cress and rocket (arugula) – peppery flavour
  • Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Cauliflower – healthy goodness
  • Sunflower and Chia – nutty flavour

When I first started out, I chose seeds based on what was available in the cupboard. Yellow mustard seeds, in the back of my spice box, were my first experiment into microgreens. I then raided the garden cupboard for anything nearly out of date and found rocket and basil seeds.

Step 4. Plant your seeds

And keep the soil in your pot moist by watering every day or two. Because the seedlings are delicate when they first emerge, you might find a spray bottle a good way to keep emerging seedlings moist.

Step 5. Harvest!

When the seedlings are about two weeks old and pushing up their ‘second leaf’ it’s time to harvest. Not sure if you’ve got the harvest time right? ‘Second leaf’ refers to the second type of leaf that emerges from your seedling. It’s got true characteristics of the mature plant, so the second leaf for red cabbage is actually red and not green like the first leaf.

Harvest with scissors by gently snipping off the stem above the soil. Generally, you’ll get one harvest for each seedling. After you’ve harvested the whole crop, it’s time to refill the pot and start again!

Step 6. Eat them.

There are so many ways you can make food look and taste beautiful with microgreens. Think hearty, winter pumpkin soup. Then, garnish it with sour cream and mustard microgreens. How about a leafy green side salad that’s topped with aromatic coriander and rich red cabbage microgreens.

Yum! My home cooking has been taken up a notch in nutrition and presentation. It’s all about those microgreens on the window sill.

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Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

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