Everything you need to know about adding healthy, home-grown fresh greens to your galley!
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are baby plants that pack a nutritional punch. They are rich in nutrients, often containing larger amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than their fully-grown equivalents. Not only that, they are tasty too!
Microgreens are quick, easy, and cheap to grow, making them ideal for boat life. With just a little preparation you will no longer be craving fresh food after weeks at sea. In just a week you can be enjoying convenient, fresh home-grown greens. Furthermore, they don’t require any soil, and will only use up a small amount of your space and water too. They truly are your new galley hero!
How To Eat Microgreens
There is nothing better than enjoying the food you have grown yourself, and there are so many ways to include microgreens in your diet! Add them to your favorite sandwich, salad, burger, wrap, or bowl. Blend them into a juice or smoothie. Or use them as a garnish on pizzas, soups, stir-fries, and curries. Be sure to eat them raw to preserve their nutrients, and to add a fresh and crisp flavor profile to any meal.
These nutritious greens can be enjoyed year-round, so they are the perfect way to boost your intake of nutrients without having to purchase and store extra quantities of vegetables. Scurvy be gone!
Which Seeds To Grow
If you are new to growing microgreens, start with these easy varieties to guarantee success from the beginning! The following seeds are easy to plant, quick to harvest, and have minimal growing requirements.
Radish (Daikon) A spicy, fresh flavor. High in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
Broccoli A crisp, punchy flavor. High in vitamin A, C, and B complex, calcium, potassium, copper, fiber, and antioxidants.
Arugula (Rocket) A strong, peppery flavor. High in vitamin B6, amino acids, iron, and calcium.
Cabbage A mild, sweet flavor. High in vitamins C and K, rich in fiber, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, and sulfur.
Sunflower A crunchy, nutty flavor. High in protein, vitamins A, B complex, D, and E, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Kale A sweet, bright flavor. High in vitamins A, K, and C, as well as containing beta carotene, magnesium and antioxidants.
Equipment You Will Need
Microgreens are so convenient to grow that with just a few items you’ll be well on your way to growing your own kitchen garden aboard! Here’s what you’ll need:
Good-quality seeds Look for seeds that are 100% organic and free from any nasty chemicals.
Growing mat These are single-use pads designed specifically for growing microgreens. They are usually made from natural materials like coconut husk, jute or hemp, which can then be composted after use.
Growing trays You can buy specific food-grade trays for the job, but just about any kind of wide, shallow dish will work for growing microgreens. Your tray should have holes to drain out excess water and another tray underneath to collect the runoff. However, ensure that you pick materials that are leach-resistant. Avoid single-use plastics or other toxic materials.
Seed dispenser This controls the flow speed when sowing seeds for even distribution. Otherwise, use an old spice jar or water bottle with holes in the lid to shake the seeds out.
Spray bottle You will need to lightly spray your seeds with water. Choose a bottle with a fine mist nozzle.
pH tester (optional) It is good practice to test the pH balance of the water you will use on your microgreens, as they can be sensitive to pH. However, freshly collected clean rainwater should be fine.
How To Grow Your Own Microgreens
Here’s how you can be eating home-grown greens in less than 10 easy steps!
Pre-soak your seeds if required (6-8 hours or according to package directions).
Soak your growing mat and place it in the tray (do not over saturate).
Sow your seeds. Sprinkle them evenly, about one millimeter apart (overcrowding can cause air deficiency and poor drainage).
Lightly mist your seeds with water.
Cover your growing tray, allowing space for airflow. Adding a lid with weight will help to create resistance and strengthen your seedlings as if they were pushing through soil whilst they germinate.
Put your growing tray in a cool, dark place (i.e. a cupboard) for the first 3 days of germination. Water them with a fine mist spray every 12 hours during this time.
Once the seeds have germinated, remove the lid and move your growing tray to a sunny position, (for example, a window sill). At this stage, your seedlings will look quite yellowish before photosynthesis occurs.
Lightly water the seedlings daily by bottom-watering from the tray underneath. Keep a small amount of fresh water in the tray for the capillary action to suck up. Your growing tray should be as level as possible to ensure even water distribution to the roots. (Do not spray from the top at this stage as it can cause mold and mildew.)
After about 7-10 days your microgreens should look strong and healthy, and have “true leaves”. They are now ready to harvest!
How To Harvest & Store Your Microgreens
Because microgreens can be grown in large quantities, good food storage practices are required to keep your homegrown greens fresh and edible. Work carefully not to crush the plants as you harvest them. Cutaway the green sections just above the “soil” line, using scissors or a sharp knife to prevent any tearing or bruising.
Once you have trimmed your microgreens it is important to store them in a dry, cool place. Avoid watering your microgreens 24-48 hours before harvesting, or dab them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture before storing.
Gently wrap your microgreens in some damp paper towel or a clean, damp cloth. Then pop them in a zip-seal bag or food container in the fridge. Make sure they have enough room to breathe, without too much air to avoid oxidizing. Keep an eye on the humidity level in your fridge, and change out the paper or towel if it becomes too wet.
Following these simple tips means that your microgreens will stay nutritious and last up to 2 weeks in storage.
Mistakes To Avoid
Although there are several microgreen varieties that are easy to grow, there are still a few things that can go wrong. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when growing your microgreens.
Buy high-quality seeds from a reputable company (either online or from a gourmet eco store or local farmer). Use natural and organic growing mediums where you can. This will ensure you the best quality and healthiest microgreens possible.
Do not confuse root hairs for mold. These fuzzy hairs at the bottom part of the stem help the seedlings increase their surface area for more water. Mould will appear as patchy white stuff on the leaves and upper stems.
Avoid mold by only watering sprouted microgreen roots from the bottom, rather than dampening the stems and leaves.
Avoid overseeding, as this can cause both mold and root rot. Seedlings need proper aeration and penetration of light.
Avoid overwatering your microgreens, as this can also cause root rot.
Exposing your microgreens to light too early can render them weak and thin. Keeping them in the dark for the first few days will give you stronger plants and a higher yield.
Clean and sanitize your equipment before use. This helps to reduce the likelihood of pests and diseases in your plants.
Emily is a wandering gypsy at heart. She lives full-time aboard s/v Long Summer, traveling the world and learning to sail with her young family. She is passionate about living a minimalist, low-impact lifestyle, and championing a whole-foods, plant-based diet. When she hasn’t got her nose in a book, she’s sharing her family’s travel and lifestyle experiences online.
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