The weather is better, the sun’s out and everywhere nature is flourishing. November is the month of growing, that’s why we’ve labelled it “Growvember”. With summer fast approaching and gardens blossoming into various shades of green, Source believes it’s time to turn attentions towards growing microgreens. These tiny vegetable greens are used both as a visual and flavour component or ingredient in fine dining dishes, but they are also starting to gain mass appeal amongst foodie buffs. For the month of Growvember, we’re focussing our attention on the microgreens of Greg Nicolson, a Botanist from Muizenberg in Cape Town. Nicolson already has an interest in indigenous and succulent plants, but has recently developed a passion for growing microgreens. Microgreens can be easily be mistaken as part of the sprout family, but they are really in a league of their own. In most restaurants, microgreens have a wide variety of uses, such as simple garnish or to create micro-leaved salads packed with strong flavours. Microgreens also contain more nutrients than normal-sized leaves. Nicolson’s interest in microgreens goes back to his earlier aspirations of being a farmer. He started with a veggie garden in his back yard, growing everything from lettuce leaves, peas, broccoli to chillies and cucumber. From this came his desire to experiment with microgreens. Soon his family and friends had an abundance of microgreens to eat. Encouraged by this small success, Nicolson decided to go bigger. Over two months he built his own greenhouse, which stands four-metres wide and 15-metres long. Now in the early stages of filling his greenhouse with a variety of microgreens, Nicolson has grown beautiful trays of wheat grass, sunflower sprouts, coriander microgreens and rocket leaves. He’s been learning on the journey, but states that his goal for the future is to supply restaurants with his home grown delights. Although taking it one step at time, he’s always on the lookout for new and exciting seeds to grow. For interested microgreen growers, Nicolson provides the following tips:
- The selection It’s very important to choose the right seeds. I got mine from online seed sprouting company and by looking online you can choose from a wide variety of seeds. It’s important to get seeds that have been untreated. Treated seeds have a fungicide on them which we should not be eating. Buying bulk seeds will save you money in the long run when growing your own microgreens at home.
- The process Plant the seeds into a good quality potting soil and compost, hopefully homemade compost. The seeds need to be sown gently above the soil in the tray and one must not bury the seeds. It is also important to have trays that have good drainage. When germinating the seeds, the soil should be damp and set in a warm area. Not too hot and not in direct sunlight as this will cause the microgreen leaves to grow to have a bitter taste. They should have good ventilation. Use a mist-spray bottle to water the plant. They need to be sprayed a few times a day.
- The harvest Microgreens will grow to be 5cm-7cm high. At this height they are ready to be harvested. Harvest the leaves with a pair of scissors. Once you are done harvesting your microgreens, place them in the fridge and they will keep fresh for well over a week. Start the process again by recycling the left over soil from the trays into your compost heap. It should take a few weeks to grow your own micro herbs but they are that simple to grow.
Growing herbs, vegetables and microgreens should not be an intimidating task. If you don’t have a garden there are other simple ways to grow plants. Like Nicolson, you can gather vital information online. There are many ways to start small urban gardens. Window planters or vertical gardens, which can be made with recycled bottles or cans, are a good way to start. All you need is a little sun, good soil, water and patience. ‘Tis the season to grow herbs such as basil, chives, parsley and coriander, and vegetables such as beans and carrots. Take this month to do something inspiring, different and exciting. Get growing in Growvember.