Oh fresh greens! I miss you already and winter has only just begun. I don’t deal well with the deprivation that this darkness delivers. Fortunately, there are some edibles that grow well enough indoors that I can indulge in chlorophyll over the next few months without the need for a heated greenhouse. Have you ever grown micro-greens? What about pea shoots? They are not that difficult to grow and they are incredibly satisfying to eat.
Micro-greens are the smallest of shoots, harvested in the stage between cotyledon and first true leaf. Many types of plants are used as ‘micro-greens’ including broccoli, amaranth, radish or kale. While managing the garden at Sleeping Lady, I was given the opportunity to experiment at will to find the microgreens best suited to winter production in their greenhouse. A look through a Johnny’s Seeds catalog will give you an idea of the variety of plants that are used in micro-greens production. Some are used for their color, others for their sturdiness and keeping ability and others for flavor. The price range for micro-green seed is broad and often has little to do with the ease or difficulty in growing. Some of the most expensive seed is also the most finicky to grow with the highest chance of failure. Hands-down my favorite ones to grow were the radishes. Often the seed was far less expensive than most other micro-greens, the size of the seed was larger and easier to handle and the growth rate was rapid and predictable. The flavor and texture of the radish sprouts was also exceptional and the holding ability after being cut was much better than some of the more delicate sprouts (such as beets, purslane or amaranth).
Pea shoots are equally easy to grow. Again, many types of peas are sold for shoot production. The ones that have been most successful for me are the Dwarf Gray. They are also the least expensive pea seed when purchased in bulk. Before planting, pea seed should be soaked overnight in clean water. This will jump start the sprouting process.
The easiest way to grow micro-greens or pea shoots is to put a little container of soil (I prefer to use one of the shallow black nursery tray liners with the underlying support tray that is used for holding garden starts at the store) on your kitchen counter. Sprinkle seeds densely onto the soil surface (regular potting mix works well), press the seeds into the soil with the palm of your hand and then lightly sprinkle a little soil over the top. Water thoroughly so that the soil is damp all the way through (bottom watering works best for micro-greens and peas) and in a couple of days you will see the seedlings beginning to emerge. There is no need to fertilize. When the micro-green seedlings are approximately 1-2” in height and before the first true leaves are fully developed, clip the seedlings off and use as a garnish for sandwiches, soup or salads. For the pea shoots, wait until they are approximately 3-4” in height before clipping. You may be surprised how much flavor such a little plant can pack...they really are amazing. After clipping, the plants will not re-grow. The soil can be dumped into the compost pile or worm bin (the worms really love to eat the leftovers).
If you have left-over broccoli, radish or kohlrabi seed from your summer garden, these can be used in the winter for micro-greens production. Avoid nightshades such as peppers, tomatoes or eggplant. These are not suitable for micro-greens production. When in doubt, Google it.