In our last post, we featured fun food growing activities for under-fives. Today, as promised, we follow up by explaining how children can grow ‘microgreens’. These are easy, fun and educational for children to grow and indeed food-growing activities have many benefits for little ones. Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads, garnishes, stir fries and more. Growing microgreens is also a nature-based activity for children and one that requires very little space or equipment. It can be accomplished entirely indoors — just a well-lit windowsill will suit.
What Are Microgreens?
First, though, what exactly are microgreens? Also known as micro leaves, they’re the very young shoots of edible plants like herbs and vegetables (more about those later). When young and grown from seeds, these can grow into a thick ‘blanket’ of tiny growing shoots that can be harvested and eaten as food. They’re very tasty, totally natural and extremely nutritious.
Children will get to enjoy every stage of growing them — from sowing the seeds, watering them, watching them sprout and later snipping off the blanket of shoots ready to use in meals. It’s another great way of teaching children where food comes from and, what’s more, it’s really easy, inexpensive and is faster than growing most other types of plant-based food.
Which Seeds Can be Grown into Microgreens?
Seeds that are suitable for use as microgreens include those for the following herbs, vegetables, root vegetables and leafy greens:
- Basil for tasty, aromatic leaves — great on pizzas, in salads and perfect for making pesto sauce.
- Rocket, a peppery and flavoursome addition to any salad or pizza.
- Coriander with its strong and unique taste — a personal favourite and a great addition to salads, curries, chopped onions and stir fries.
- Spinach microgreens are mild and extremely nutritious — perfect in salads, pasta and risotto.
- Broccoli shoots taste quite different to fully-grown broccolis with a slightly spicy taste that will liven up any salad, omelette or risotto.
- Red cabbage micro leaves are teaming with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. With the highest level of Vitamin C of any microgreen, they’re the chef’s favourite for use in soup, garnishes, salads, vegetables or with meats and stews.
- Radish microgreens, like their fully-grown counterpart, taste a little bit fiery — great in salads, sandwiches and in stir fries.
- Mustard microgreens also have a certain heat to their taste and are suited to use in salads and stir fries.
- Fennel micro leaves taste a little of aniseed, giving flavour to soups, risotto, pasta, salads and stuffing.
- Beetroot leaves make any salad, garnish or fish dish look gorgeous with their red stems and deeply coloured micro leaves.
Depending on the seed chosen, most microgreens take from just a few days to two weeks to grow large enough to harvest. Red cabbage is amongst the fastest of them all if you’re in a hurry for results. Broccoli, rocket, radish and mustard micro leaves can also be harvested in just a week.
Essentially, children will just need seed shallow seed trays or other containers, some compost, the seeds and a well-lit windowsill.
The seeds, trays and any ‘drip trays’ (or equivalent to catch water underneath) can be purchased from garden centres or online. They’re not expensive, especially if you shop around. Other alternatives to commercially available seed trays include flower pots, recycled yoghurt pots or used food trays that you may have left over from ready meals. So long as they have drainage, they should work fine, so some holes may be needed underneath if there are none. Another option is used egg cartons or children will love it if they use empty egg shells with their tops sliced off so there’s an opening to fill. The children will typically draw faces on those and then, when the microgreens grow, it’ll look like hair!
For the compost, ‘multi-purpose compost’ or ‘seed and cuttings compost’ are suitable but try to buy a peat-free variety as it’s kinder to the planet.
How to Plant the Microgreen Seeds
- Compost should be used to fill the containers almost to the top if they don’t have much depth. Otherwise an inch-and-a-half or so is ample.
- It should then be patted lightly so it’s flat.
- Then the seeds can be either sprinkled or hand placed into small indents, so they’re evenly spaced out (not too densely otherwise problems will occur later on).
- Optionally, a light dusting of more compost can then cover the seeds.
- Then they’ll need either a light watering or the pots/trays will need to sit in shallow water for up to an hour so the water can be drawn up through the soil.
- If more than one variety of seeds are being grown, it would also be good to label the trays/pots appropriately. Wooden lollipop sticks marked with a pencil would be perfect, although any way of marking the trays will be fine.
- A sheet of paper towel, newspaper or cling film can then optionally be used to cover the seed pots or trays until the seeds germinate.
Growing & Harvesting the Microgreens
The rest is easy! The trays or pots should then be placed on a well-lit windowsill and children will need to check every day that the soil is moist and doesn’t dry out. Ideally there should be ventilation too. As soon as the seeds begin to sprout, any covering from step 7 above should be removed. After anywhere from a few days to two weeks, the seeds will have grown into a low ‘blanket’ of densely growing seedlings with thin, short stems and tiny leaves at the top — the tender young micro leaves that lend microgreens their name.
To harvest, the beautiful blanket of seedlings can be snipped near the base of their stems (for safety, a supervising adult may need to help with this part if children are very young). Snipping instead of pulling up by the root will allow children to harvest and re-harvest them because the seedlings will grow into microgreens more than once in many cases. They can then be rinsed to clean off any of the soil and then added to salads, garnishes or used as a food ingredient.
Children will love the growing journey and will learn many lessons and new skills along the way. They’re sure to enjoy the beauty of the little plants, the wonder of nature and their part in the success of this lovely childhood activity. What’s more, they get to eat the tasty and highly nutritious crop and it could even encourage them to be more experimental and perhaps less finicky with their food choices.
Our Outstanding Nursery & Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham
Conveniently Near to Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick
Growing microgreens, herbs, vegetables and other plants is both fun and educational for children, especially in their early years. The activities also teach children about nature. As well as being a nursery and a pre-school, Leaps & Bounds is also a Forest School, so it’s natural for us to include activities around nature at the setting. We are an outstandingly good nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham and are also a convenient choice if you are looking for the best pre-schools and nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick. Contact us to arrange a visit, ask any questions or to enrol your child at the nursery. We’ll be happy to help!