Tag Archive for: nature activities

Microgreens: Fun Food Growing for Under-Fives

Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads and garnishes.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.

Microgreens are great in salads, in sandwiches, or used as garnishes with meat, fish, burgers and pasta.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.
  • Beetroot leaves make any salad, garnish or fish dish look gorgeous with their red stems and rich micro leaves.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.

What’s Needed

Children will love it if they use empty egg shells for their microgreens.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

  1. Seeds can be either sprinkled or hand placed into small indents, so they're evenly spaced out.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.
  2. It should then be patted lightly so it’s flat.
  3. 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).
  4. Optionally, a light dusting of more compost can then cover the seeds.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

As soon as the seeds begin to sprout, any covering should be removed.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.

To harvest, the beautiful blanket of seedlings can be snipped near the base of their stems.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

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Children grow plants and herbs at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham. 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!

Today we’re taking a look at some fun food growing activities that under-fives can undertake at home. As we said in that last post, teaching children to grow food has an enormous number of benefits, so our post today explains some easy and inexpensive ways that children can get started.

No Garden Required

Many of today’s vegetable and herb growing activities can be accomplished simply on a well-lit windowsill. So, if you do not have a garden, courtyard, balcony or access to an allotment, it doesn’t matter — your little ones can still get involved in these wonderful activities. The plants will simply need some water, soil, light and a little care.

Re-Growing Herbs for Free

To re-grow herbs, snip off a few clippings, remove any leaves nearest the bottom and place the stems into water — roots will grow.When you next buy herbs like basil, parsley, coriander or rosemary from the supermarket, get your child to try this simple herb-growing task using a few left-over stalks.

All they need to do is pull or, with suitable supervision, snip off a few clippings, remove any leaves nearest the bottom of the stems and place those stems into water as shown in the photograph (right). If these are left dangling in water for a week or two, roots will start to grow from the stems. The clippings are then new plants, ready to be planted into soil, for example in pots on the windowsill. Once the roots have grown, young herb plants can be potted into soil and grown on the windowsill.Flower pots, used yoghurt pots or anything similar will do, so long as there is drainage in the bottom (place on a saucer or tray to protect the windowsill). Once they’ve been potted in the soil, they’ll need to be regularly watered and, in time, they’ll sprout into fully-fledged herb plants that can be harvested for food as they grow. New clippings can also be taken from the mature plant so that the whole process can be repeated. Children will love seeing and being responsible for this little miracle! And the best thing is that the cost will have been negligible. How’s that for sustainable food production!

Re-Growing Lettuce & Vegetables for Free

Baby lettuce leaves sprouting just 4 days after placing the lettuce base in water.Next time you cut the leaves off a lettuce, the edible part off a celery, or the ‘bulb’ flesh from an onion, instead of discarding the ‘root’ section at the bottom, keep hold of it. In a similar way to what we described above, this bottom section can be dangled or placed into a water vessel for a few days. The tops will eventually grow shoots and the bottom sections will eventually grow roots. In our own experiment with lettuce, the little lettuce leaves nearest the centre started growing in just one day! Plants like celery can also be re-grown and planted into pots once roots have grown.The accompanying photo (right) shows the growth after four days and all this is happening before the roots have even begun to sprout!. In just a week or two, this approach will give children new leaves to harvest for vegetables like lettuce, Swiss chard, celery, bok choy (Chinese lettuce), lemongrass and any similar salad leaf.

Children can use a similar approach using the lower section of things like onions, spring onions or garlic. New plants will sprout, roots will grow and the new young plants can be replanted into soil. With water, soil and light, they will eventually grow new ‘bulbs’ that can later be harvested and eaten.

Carrot tops can also be regrown and used in salads.A similar approach can also be used for carrot tops, except with those it’s the green, leafy carrot tops that your child can retain, grow and later harvest. These can be used in salads and garnishes.

Seeds can be harvested from vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, then grown into new plants.

Growing Vegetables & Fruit Using Free Seeds

Did you know that you can grow new fruit and vegetables from the seeds found in shop-bought fruit and vegetables? All your child needs to do is to keep some of the seeds from inside fruit and vegetables that you already bought as part of your weekly shop. Just a few examples follow — pips or seeds from all of the following can be ‘harvested’ and grown into new plants, ready to sprout new fruit or vegetable plants:

A few fruit examples:

  • Save the pips from apples
  • Save the pips from pears
  • Save the ‘stones’ from peaches or plums

A few vegetable examples:

  • Save the pips from tomatoes
  • Save the seeds from peppers
  • Save the seeds from pumpkins & squashes

Seeds from ripe beans, sugar snaps and similar can be saved, grown into seedlings and planted into containers or grow bags to make new plants and a new crop.The seeds from ripe sugar snaps and beans can also be saved by children to ‘seed’ into new plants, to get free vegetables! Once sprouting, they can be planted out into grow bags or a patch of soil in the garden. They will give the family a whole new crop of vegetables if they’re regularly watered and looked after.

Children can also save the seeds from courgettes and marrows. However, those need to come from really mature ones that have ideally been left to fully ripen on the plant itself. So, for these two examples it may be best to ask around to see if any friends or neighbours are growing any. The seeds in shop-bought marrows and courgettes may not be mature enough to grow new plants from. Plants like marrows, courgettes and beans do need quite a bit of space too, once they become mature plants. Therefore, from a practical point of view, children may have to limit themselves to herbs and vegetables that only grow into smaller plants if their households has limited growing space.

Looking for an Outstanding Nursery, Pre-School or Forest School in Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick?

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Children grow plants and herbs at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham. As a Forest School and a nursery/pre-school that educates under-fives as well as looking after them, we encourage children to engage in activities involving nature. These include plant growing as well as learning about and enjoying everything that the natural world has to offer. If you are looking for an outstanding nursery & Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham, or the best pre-schools and nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please contact us. We’re here to answer any questions,  show you around so you and your little one can experience the setting for yourselves and to welcome your child to the childcare setting if you decide to enrol. Please apply for a place or contact us below:

Next Time …

In our next post we outline how children can extend their food-growing activities to include growing ‘microgreens’. It’s a real fun, easy, educational and exciting activity that results in lots of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads or as garnishes. Learn more about how children can grow microgreens at home here.