How to grow micro greens and bean sprouts on your windowsill
Mustard and cress have had a modern makeover! They're now called micro greens, and there are all sorts of interesting seeds you can either grow into greens or sprout.
It's quiet in the garden at this time of year, but keen growers can still enjoy raising and harvesting crops for salads and stir-fries – without taking a step outdoors! What’s more, these crops take just five to 14 days from sowing to harvest; super fast, super fresh, and absolutely delicious.
Micro greens are fashionable restaurant fare, but they’re simple to grow. Think mustard and cress but using different types of seeds so offering a range of flavours, from your favourite herbs to peas and earthy, colourful beets.
Most of us are also familiar with bean sprouts, that favourite of Chinese takeaways. Bean sprouts are simply mung beans in the early stages of germination. Like micro greens, they’re easy to grow, and there are other seeds you can sprout to enjoy in the same way.
Both techniques use a fairly large volume of seeds, so if you enjoy this process it's worth growing some of your favourite varieties through summer in order to harvest the seeds, which you can then sprout or raise as microgreens in the winter.
Seeds suitable for sprouting include mung beans, adzuki beans, green lentils, alfalfa, peas, leeks, radish, broccoli and chickpeas. Many of these are available from major seed suppliers, and specialist suppliers are easy to find online.
You can also buy seed-sprouting germinators. These are clear plastic tiered trays that are drilled to allow water to trickle through from top to bottom. Or you can use a jam jar with a piece of muslin cloth as a lid (pictured).
To start sprouting, soak about a tablespoon of seeds in clean water for a couple of hours, drain them and put them in your jam jar or seed sprouter. Cover the top of the jam jar with muslin cloth and hold it in place with an elastic band. If using a seed sprouter, put the lid on. Place your container on a bright, warm windowsill.
Rinse the seeds every day with fresh water, drain thoroughly and replace on the windowsill. Using a jam jar, do this by running water in through the muslin top, and draining it out again the same way. With a seed sprouter, pour water into the top tray and empty it out when it drains to the bottom tray. In four to ten days the seeds will germinate, or sprout. When the sprouts are 1 to 2 inches long (2.5 to 5cm), they’re ready to use in salads or stir-fries. It’s as easy as that!
Growing micro greens
This is a slightly different technique. Suitable seeds include just about any herb or vegetable that has harvestable top growth. Good herbs include basil, coriander and fennel, and for vegetables, choose radish for a hot, spicy taste or beetroot for a sweet, earthy flavour. Peas are great, too.
Use a clean, shallow plastic tray – the trays that cold meat or some vegetables from supermarkets are packed in work well, though you can use any shallow receptacle (pictured). Put several layers of paper kitchen towel in the base. You could use a shallow layer of compost, but paper towel is less messy indoors. Make the paper tidy and flat. Dribble water on to it to soak it thoroughly. Sow the seeds densely, but in a single layer, on top of it.
Place the tray on a warm, bright kitchen windowsill. Check the paper every day and add water to keep it moist at all times. In four to ten days the seeds will germinate.
Allow them to grow into seedlings 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15cm) tall depending on the type you’re growing, with the first pair of seed leaves fully open. They’re now ready for harvesting. Cut off bunches of seedlings close to the base and use them in salads, sandwiches and stir-fries.