Are you interested in growing microgreens, but don’t know where to start?
Are you overwhelmed with all of the microgreen seed choices?
I know how you feel because I’ve been there! There are pages and pages of options and it’s hard to know what to know what type of microgreens to choose.
In my comprehensive article, I break down not only which type of microgreens you can grow, but their health benefits as well! Yes, microgreens are delicious, but they are also loaded with nutrients!
If you have specific health concerns or goals, picking the right microgreen for you is important. As a dietitian, I am always looking at nutritional value and can’t wait to nerd out with you in the article below.
Let’s jump in!
What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are tender, young versions of your standard vegetables, herbs and greens! They are grown clustered together and harvested when they are just 1-3 weeks old; rather than letting them continue to grow to full size. They were first introduced in 1980 and have been growing in popularity ever since!
Microgreens are nutrition-packed! They have 2-3.5 times more nutrients than mature spinach leaves (study)!
Microgreens are a great introduction to gardening and provide fresh greens in the winter. They require minimal equipment and can easily be grown in small spaces. This makes microgreens a great gardening option if you live in an apartment or a small home!!
What are the benefits of Microgreens?
The type of microgreens that you choose to grow will determine what spectrum of nutrients you’ll get out of it. While they do vary from variety to variety, they are all generally higher in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than their mature counterparts (study 1, study 2). That means a handful of broccoli microgreens may provide similar nutrients to eating an entire head of broccoli.
Microgreens also contain less oxalates (anti-nutrients) than mature vegetables, which means better absorption of nutrients for you (study)! Some microgreens such as green pea, soybean and radish have even been shown to have cancer-fighting properties (study). Cool huh?
While soil-based and hydroponic growing methods are both popular, it’s important to note that soil-based growing provides significantly more vitamins and minerals than hydroponic growing (study 1, study 2). I’ve had low yields with hydroponic anyway, so soil-based really is the way to go, in my opinion.
Boosts your microbiome
Having a well-established gut microbiome (colony of microbes) can help prevent development of food sensitivities, support the immune system, reduce inflammation and much more! What we eat and exposure ourselves to is a huge influence on our microbiome.
Did you know that plants and the soil each has their own diverse microbiome and we benefit from exposure to them? Research has found that those who garden have a more diverse microbiome than those who do not (study). Let’s get our hands dirty!
If you’ve been suffering under the load of the past few years, growing some microgreens may give you the little boost that you need!
A recent meta-analysis revealed that gardening is associated with reductions in depression, anxiety, BMI, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life and sense of community (study).
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know self-sufficiency is the ultimate driver in what I do along with maximizing nutrition intake. Anytime you can take control and grow something yourself it’s a BIG win, especially in the unstable world we live in today.
Microgreens are becoming a booming small-business opportunity for people like you and me. You can sell them for $50 per pound! Once you get the hang of it, start by offering to grow microgreens for your neighbors and watch it take off! You can learn more about growing microgreens for profit in this article by GroCyle.
Health Benefits of Each Type of Microgreens
Amaranthaceae | Amaranth, beets, chard, quinoa, spinach.
The family Amaranthaceae is commonly known as the “Amaranth family.” These microgreens will offer you vibrant colors and lots of nutrition. However, they take longer to germinate and can be sensitive to heat and light so they are not a great choice for beginners.
Amaranth is a hidden gem in the nutritional world. Amaranth microgreens are rich in vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting compounds such as betanins, polyphenols and oligosaccharides. Check out the results from this 2021 study evaluating the nutritional content of 6 different microgreens. You can see that Red Amaranth is a clear winner!
If you’re looking for a powerful detoxifying and antioxidant microgreen, try beets! They have extraordinary amounts of vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant (study).
How to Grow:
- Pre-soak for 8 hours and use 1-1.5 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Beets & chard: Cover with a thin layer of soil
- Blackout time: 5-7 days (except only 3 days for quinoa and spinach)
- Estimated time to harvest: 8-14 days
Amaryllidaceae | Chives, garlic, leeks, onions
If you’re looking for a burst of flavor to add to your dish, look no further. A little definitely goes a long way when using microgreens from this family. They pair wonderfully with a burger, salad or soups!
The amaryllidaceae family is known for having high amounts of vitamins A & C, calcium, iron and phosphorus. They have potent anti-cancer and anti-asthmatic effects, reduce blood clotting, and even fight bacterial, fungal and viral overgrowths (study).
However, in a 2020 study comparing 10 different microgreen varieties, onions came in last as far as phytochemical content and antioxidant activity goes. It doesn’t mean that they are bad, just not quite as potent as other varieties you can grow.
How to grow:
- No soaking and use 1oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Blackout time: 4-6 days
- Estimated time to harvest: 10-12 days
Apiaceae | Carrot, celery, dill, fennel
The Apiaceae group has a delightful flavor profile! Their taste is similar to their mature versions, but more mild and sweet. An excellent garnish!
Keep in mind that this family is slow at germinating and takes a bit longer to finish out than other microgreens, but the wait is worth it!
This is a nutritional powerhouse group! Loaded with calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamins A, B, E & K. Fennel really takes the cake (with carrot close behind) as far as phytochemical and antioxidant activity goes compared to other types of microgreens (study).
How to grow:
- No soaking and use 1 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Blackout time: 7-14 days
- Estimated time to harvest: 14-21 days
Asteraceae | Chicory, endive, lettuce, sunflower, radicchio
This group is fast growing and easy peasy to grow. They provide some nice crunch and a pleasant flavor. Endive microgreens are mildly bitter where sunflower microgreens are nutty and sweet. Experiment and find which ones you like best!
Lettuce microgreens have been shown to be particularly high in minerals such as manganese, iron, copper and zinc. One study showed that lettuce microgreens have nearly 5x the amount of zinc as fully mature lettuce (study). Zinc is a common deficiency in today’s population and is a powerful nutrient in may ways – healing our gut, thyroid function, balancing our adrenals, supporting our immune system and much more!
Sunflower microgreens are a rich source of phytochemical and antioxidants as you can see in the table below (study), meaning they are going to be excellent allies in fighting inflammation and chronic disease. Lastly, they are also a particularly good source of iron – providing 181% of the daily value (source)!
How to grow:
- Greens: No soaking and use 1 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Sunflowers: 8-12 hours of pre-soaking and use 6 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Blackout time: 2-3 days
- Estimated time to harvest: 8-15 days
Brassicaceae | Arugula, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, watercress
This is my very favorite group! Not only are they super fast and easy to grow, but they are very nutritious as well. Great for beginners!
Brassica microgreens are loaded with phosphorus, calcium, iron and zinc (study), and arugula in particular is low in oxalates, which means improved calcium absorption for you!
They are also excellent sources of a compound called sulforaphane, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and colon-cancer fighting properties as well as beneficially impacting our genes! Just 1 oz of broccoli microgreens has ~73mg of sulforaphane where ¾ cup of steamed broccoli only has ~40mg (study)!
Cabbage and radish microgreens have been shown to have superior levels of carotenoids (a phytonutrient) and vitamins C, E and K compared to other microgreen varieties (study), which can protect against cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers (study). A recent 2021 study further confirmed that radish microgreens have anti-tumor effects.
Want to learn something super interesting?? A 2016 experimental study using mice found that red cabbage microgreens intake resulted in significantly lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and inflammatory cytokines in addition to preventing weight gain when given a high-fat diet. They are rich in a compound called sinapine, which has cardioprotective effects (study).
Are you convinced yet? Give them a try!
How to grow:
- No soaking and use 1.5 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Blackout time: 2-3 days
- Estimated time to harvest: 8-12 days
Cucurbitaceae | Cucumbers, melons, squashes
The cucurbitaceae family is fun to grow because they germinate and finish out fast! Cucumbers have a refreshing, fresh flavor and pumpkins have a nutty, rich flavor that I know you’ll love.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any studies related to microgreens in the cucurbitaceae family. However, this group is well-known for having antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and I’d expect these benefits to extend to their microgreen state as well. Cucurbitaceae have even been shown to help in improving UTIs, treating intestinal disorders and diabetes (study)!
How to grow:
- Soak for 2-4 hours and use 1 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Blackout time: 4-5 days
- Estimated time to harvest: 7-16 days
Lamiaceae | Mint, basil, sage, oregano
While many of these herbs are woody when mature, they are tender and packed full of flavor when grown as a microgreen. Basil microgreen pesto, anyone?? What about sage microgreens sprinkled on a hearty winter soup? YUMMMMM.
Keep in mind that basil in particular is a mucilagenous seed. This means it develops a jelly-like coating when moistened and thus, needs more frequent misting to keep it strong.
Basil microgreens are an excellent source of vitamin C with a 100g portion providing over 1.3 times the daily value (study)! Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which reduces circulating free radicals that can cause oxidative damage, premature aging and cancer if left unchecked.
While I couldn’t find much research on the other varieties, I think it’s safe to say that oregano microgreens carry the same powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that mature oregano has. If you feel like you’re fighting something, definitely add some oregano microgreens!
How to grow:
- No soaking and use 0.5-1 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Blackout time: 3-5 days
- Estimated time to harvest: 10-14 days (18-25 days for sage & oregano)
Poaceae | Barley, corn, rice, oats, wheatgrass
Microgreens from the poaceae family have a grass-like appearance and is often grown as fodder for livestock, but humans enjoy them as well! Its flavor varies from grassy (barley) to sweet (corn). You can juice them or enjoy them sprinkled on a salad or sandwich.
Wheatgrass is the most heavily researched variety from this family and it is loaded with health benefits from its wide-range of antioxidant, anti-aging, immune-boosting, anti-hyperglycemic and anti-inflammatory effects (study1, study 2, study 3). Wheatgrass has even been shown to reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis (study) and increase hemoglobin levels in those with anemia (study).
You may be wondering if you can try barley or wheat grass if you have a gluten intolerance. The answer is YES! The microgreen portions (the greens) are completely gluten-free. Just make sure to be careful when harvesting so that the greens don’t get contaminated by the gluten-containing grains below.
How to grow:
- Soak for 12 hours and use 1-2 oz of seed per 10” x 20” tray
- Blackout time: Not necessary
- Estimated time to harvest: 7-10 days
What Microgreen Supplies Do I Need?
- 3 Growing trays
- One with drainage holes – put your soil and microgreens in this one. This could be anything from a standard 10” x 20” growing tray to several 5″ x 5″ or 10″ x 10″ so that you can mix-and-match what you are growing. Some people even use old yogurt cups! It doesn’t have to be fancy.
- One without holes – add water to this one for a bottom-watering method to reduce risk of mold growing. If you don’t want to use the 2-tray/bottom-watering method, you can just use 1 tray without holes to grow your microgreens, but you have to be very careful not to overwater.
- Another one without holes – place this one on top for your “black out” days during germination
- Soil medium – The key is finding a soil with a fine-texture, such as seed starting mix. I like to use organic mixes to make sure that my microgreens are as toxin-free as possible.
- Seeds – buying in bulk is the way to go! I like to start with 4oz packages to test out the variety and then 1 lb packages after that.
- Window or a grow light – I’ve found that a large window is more than enough light for my microgreens, even during our short winter daylight hours in Minnesota. If you don’t have a large window, I recommend a grow light. Check out My Favorite Things page to see which grow lights are my favorite.
Still not sure which one to try? True Leaf Market offers a sample pack of 12 different varieties so you can figure out which ones are your favorites before you commit to a bulk package.
How Do I Grow Microgreens?
- Pre-soak your seeds, if necessary (see details on the type of microgreens above to figure out if this is needed or not)
- Fill your container with soil, gently compress it (to get the air pockets out) and mist until evenly moist
- Sprinkle your seeds evenly over the soil and lightly mist with water
- If using the bottom watering method (which is what I recommend to reduce the risk of mold growth), add 2 cups of water to your bottom tray (the one without holes). Place your microgreen tray inside.
- Cover with your blackout dome (aka another tray without holes). Some people use it literally like a dome. However, I like to nest it inward so that the bottom presses gently on the seeds. This is supposed to aid in germination and produce heartier sprouts. Add some weight (I use a book) when growing a hearty type of microgreens like sunflowers or peas.
- Mist daily and monitor the water level in the bottom tray. Refill as needed.
- Once your blackout time is done and your seeds have germinated, remove the blackout dome and place your microgreens under a light source (large window or a grow light).
- Stop misting and continue with bottom watering as needed until they are ready to harvest!
- Place in a storage container or ziplock bag with a paper towel in the fridge. Use within 7-10 days.
Do you prefer to watch the steps in action? No problem! I am working on some reels that will be posted on my Instagram account @TheHomesteadingRD shortly! Keep an eye out for them 🙂
Are You Ready to Select Your Type of Microgreens?
In summary, you really can’t go wrong with choosing a type of microgreens as far as nutritional value goes. They are all excellent sources of a variety of nutrients and would be a great addition to boost your daily intake. I love them sprinkled on fried eggs, soups, sandwiches, and my favorite gluten-free quiche recipe!
As you can see in this handy chart by Sunchoke Farms, nearly all of the vitamins and minerals are widely expressed in microgreens, with the exception of vitamin D.
Some types take more attention than others, so keep in mind the difficulty level indicated in the type of microgreens categories above. Start with the ones that are great for beginners such as lettuce, endive, sunflowers, broccoli or cabbage and then work up from there!
The thing I love most about microgreens is how feasible they are for anyone. They don’t take up much space, are typically grown indoors, have a low start-up cost and have HUGE potential! Many people go on to start their own backyard microgreens business.
Once you master the art of microgreens and are ready to move onto a vegetable or herb garden, make sure to utilize my comprehensive article 5 Winter Tasks Every Gardner Should Do to get ready for your best growing season yet!
What are your favorite microgreens to grow? If this is your first time – do you have any questions before you start? Please share with us in the comments!
Achieve Your Best Harvest Yet!
I’ve been using my Garden Growing Guide for years and I know that you’ll love it, too. It’s fully customizable to your growing zone and can be printed or used digitally. Happy Gardening!