What are Microgreens: The Basics
Microgreens have been used in the culinary industry since the 1980s. While they were initially used as a form of garnish, chefs now realize they also add flavor and visual appeal to all types of dishes. As with most vegetables, it all starts with microgreen seeds, but instead of allowing the plant to grow to its full potential, they are harvested shortly after the sprouting phase. The result is a robust flavor and an ingredient that packs a variety of nutrients and health benefits in a delicious package. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry states that microgreens have elevated levels of vitamins, E, C and K, as well as concentrated levels of beta-carotene and lutein. Microgreens have as much as 40 times more nutrients than a mature plant.
A Culinary Delight: Enhanced Flavor
One of the most significant benefits of using microgreens in dishes is that they provide an intense experience that will elevate the overall flavor of any dish. Many chefs use them to add depth of flavor and to create complex flavor profiles that transform a meal into a culinary adventure. One popular form of microgreen is the purple radish. It is usually ready for harvest in only six days and offers a spicy radish taste. The result is a dish that not only tastes more vibrant but one that offers a delectable visual appeal that satisfies the eyes and palate.
Is Growing Microgreens Difficult?
When most people think of growing vegetables, they envision back-breaking work that takes weeks or even months to yield a viable crop. Traditional plants require an extended amount of time and large amount of space. Microgreen seeds, on the other hand, are affordable and are ready for harvest in as little as one week. In addition, growing microgreens doesn’t require a lot of space, and can even be done indoors with the proper setup. Many people start a business selling microgreens to restaurants in their area. The low threat of new entrants into the market means microgreens are in constant demand.
Growing Microgreens: Indoors Vs. Outdoors
One of the first decisions a microgreens farmer makes is deciding whether to grow their crop indoors or outdoors. Outdoor setups are typically easier because they don’t require an artificial light source, but growing outdoors requires the proper environmental conditions. Most climates provide perfect conditions to grow microgreens from late spring until early fall. Outside of this timeframe, the threat of extreme temperature fluctuations and frost make growing outdoors impossible. An indoor setup is a great alternative because it offers greater control over the growing environment and does not subject the delicate shoots to the wrath of Mother Nature. Most farmers use a combination of indoor and outdoor applications. It ensures they have a large crop in their rotation and are ready to combat any environmental threats.
Which Microgreen Seeds Work Best?
It’s important to note that nearly any type of traditional microgreen seed will yield tasty and nutritious microgreens. Some beginners to start with a familiar plant, such as mustard greens, cauliflower or cabbage. The sky is the limit, however. Any leafy vegetable, edible flower or herb is a viable option and will quickly produce a tasty green that is perfect for garnish and as an ingredient when a punch of flavor is needed. Most garden suppliers offer a variety of microgreen seeds, which allows a farmer to choose those that are in high demand and will produce the highest yield.
Harvesting Microgreens: An Overview
Mature traditional vegetables are generally harvested 2 to 4 months after they are planted. During the growing phase, they require regular fertilizing and adequate water for development. Most microgreens are harvested in as little as one week or after the plant has reached a height of about 2 inches. The time it takes for a microgreen seed to reach this point depends on the environment in which they are grown. Exposure to sunlight or an artificial light source for a minimum of 12 hours a day and adequate water are crucial in decreasing the amount of time between initial planting and harvest.
Microgreens: Popular Uses
As more people become aware of the health benefits and flavors of microgreens, they are becoming a more-popular ingredient in a variety of different recipes. While they are commonly added to salads and other dishes, they can also be an excellent addition to smoothies and protein shakes. People looking to add robust texture and heightened flavor to anything they consume often rely on these delicate greens to do the trick. The problem is that they are hard to find, and many specialty grocery and health food stores usually sell out of them fast.
How Do You Sell Microgreens?
Despite their popularity, find a quality and steady supply of microgreens is usually difficult. A microgreens farmer has a variety of options when selling them, and may choose to provide them at a wholesale discount to restaurants or sell them at a retail price at a community farmer’s market. Some health food stores will also partner with local farmers who can provide them with a steady supply of microgreens, which is often one of the most lucrative ways to sell a large number of microgreens quickly. As with most produce, microgreens are most often sold according to weight, and the price depends on the local market and the type of greens being offered. Microgreens are best when eaten fresh but can survive for up to 5 days after harvest, which gives a farmer with ample time to sell them and prevent waste.
Low Start-Up Costs
Many farmers are surprised by how affordable growing microgreens is. An indoor setup requires a few additional pieces of equipment, but most are simple to find and affordable. Microgreen seeds should be started in nutrient-rich soil and can be grown in any container that provides space for root development. Many microgreen farmers choose to open a farm as a hobby or second income source and find they can purchase required items for less than $50. This makes microgreen farming an easy and profitable farming operation.
Can a Farmer Produce Microgreen Seeds?
While a variety of seed types are available, microgreen farmers can choose to create their own seeds by allowing a small portion of their vegetables to go to seed throughout the year. In addition to saving money, it allows them to create custom mixes by planting a variety of seeds together. One of the benefits of self-harvesting seeds, aside from saving money, is that they are already accustomed to the growing conditions a farmer provides, and will often be hardier and stand up to environmental threats with ease.
How Do you Harvest Microgreens?
One benefit of growing microgreens is that harvesting is simple and doesn’t require expensive equipment or back-breaking work. Most microgreen farmers use a clean pair of scissors, but it is crucial that they are used for no other purpose to help prevent the spread of bacteria. After the seeds reach the desired height, just cut them with the scissors, making sure to cut them as close to the dirt as possible. Using the proper technique ensures an abundant harvest and prevents waste that can occur if the plants are trimmed too short. It requires only minutes to harvest a large crop of microgreens.
Unparalleled Health Benefits
Microgreens are full of antioxidants, which means they are labeled as a functional food designed to promote health and may also prevent disease. Consuming plant-based foods, including microgreens, may be linked to overcoming conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Many who regularly consume microgreens also often report they have a healthier complexion and increased energy. Selling microgreens allows a farmer to do something good for their community by providing a steady supply of these nutrient-packed plants that are ready for use.
Is Growing Microgreens Profitable?
People worldwide realize the benefits of incorporating microgreens into their diet, which means the demand is high. When the low cost of starting up a microgreens farm is factored in, the result is a formula for a profitable business opportunity. People of all backgrounds choose to leave their traditional 9 to 5 job to start a business that not only affords them financial freedom but allows them to feel good about the work they do. The low time investment means even those who are skeptical can start their own microgreens farm while continuing to work. The typical setup requires as little as 4 hours of labor every week.