GARDENING

with Deryn Thorpe

Boost your nutrition with ‘micro greens’

Micro greens are tiny seedlings of herbs and vegetables grown quickly from seed planted in pots.

You only need a small area on a balcony or veranda to get started and most varieties can also be grown indoors in a well-lit position.

These tiny greens contain the essence of their full grown selves and provide a burst of intense flavour. They are also nutritious, containing higher levels of active plant compounds than sprouted seeds or mature vegetables.

Mizuna
Mizuna

What to grow
Micro greens are grown in sunlight, which promotes the phytochemicals and high concentrations of vitamin C, unlike sprouts, and are usually consumed when they have four true leaves.

My favourites are intensely flavoured herbs like coriander, basil, parsley, rocket and chives, which regrow after being trimmed.

To add visual excitement the vibrant purple-red leaves of beetroot, leaf amaranth and some lettuces are culinary champions.

Other suitable micro greens include buckwheat, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, celery, chicory, corn (use popcorn seed) cress, fenugreek, fennel, kale, leaf lettuces, mizuna, mustard, pak choi, peas, purslane, radish, silverbeet, spinach, sunflower, tatsoi and wheatgrass.

Planting times
Micro greens can be grown year round and because they are picked at the two or four leaf stage they are not as temperature sensitive as full-sized vegetables.

Gardeners in hot areas, including all the mainland capital cities, will find that in summer micro greens grow best with a 30% to 50% shadecloth cover. Otherwise find a position with afternoon shade.

In the cooler months I grow my plants in an inexpensive three tier 'greenhouse' to provide extra warmth.

The main disadvantage of micro greens is that you need a lot more seed than traditional vegetable growing. Source bulk seed from seed suppliers or let a couple of plants in the vegetable patch flower and harvest your own. Seed should be organic or untreated with fungicides.

How to grow
You can grow micro greens in potting mix, sieved compost or worm castings but in hot climates they grow best in coir peat as it holds moisture and re-wets easily.

Buy fine coir in dry blocks and rehydrate in a wheelbarrow or big bucket with the addition of blood and bone and seaweed tonic.

Put the hydrated coir peat or potting mix into the pots, seedling trays or recycled Styrofoam boxes, sprinkle the seeds on top and lightly press into the mix and sift a little mix over the top so the seed is covered. Sow them thickly so they grow tall and straight and keep seeds moist until they germinate.

Water micro greens daily or twice daily in summer and feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser formulated for vegetables. Most micro greens are ready to harvest in 14 to 28 days which means that there isn't time for pests and disease to get going before the leaves are harvested.

Harvesting tips
I find it easiest to harvest micro greens immediately before eating them, cutting above the soil with a pair of scissors.

You can harvest when their very first leaves appear or wait until there are four leaves so they are halfway in size between sprouts and a baby salad mix. They have the most delicate flavour when the plants have just two leaves and the flavour changes as they grow. ?

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