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Small order


You’ve seen them on gourmet food plates, it’s time to see microgreens in your garden now

Microgreens have found space on chef’s plates, shelves of delis and in high-end supermarkets. However, they are yet to make inroads into gardens. It is surprising that despite being so easy to grow and harvest, these baby versions of greens and herbs haven’t caught the fancy of the garden proud ilk, save for a few chefs and restaurants. These tiny plants are perhaps the simplest to grow, and if one has a little gardening experience, it isn’t hard to have a year-round supply of microgreens.

For the uninitiated, microgreens are greens produced at the baby stage of a plant, somewhere between a sprout and a sapling. A clear identification mark of a microgreen is the presence of the two embryonic leaves called cotyledons along with a few true leaves. They not only pack a flavourful punch, but are also dense in nutrients like vitamins, C, E, and K, lutein, and beta-carotene. They carry 40 times more nutrition than the mature leaves of the plant. Food writer, curator and expert, Karen Anand, shares that microgreens were introduced into fine dining in the West in the ’80s, and are now getting popular in India as well. “Microgreens are an extension of micro vegetables (like baby tomatoes and baby carrots), i.e., they are picked early. They are primarily used for two purposes — looks and flavour,” says Anand. These delicate-looking leaves carry an intense flavour, and are used as garnish and as flavour bombs in salads.

The growth chart

Presenting an array of colours and flavours — cress, amaranth, sunflower, basil, mustard, arugula, cress, coriander, radish, peas, alfalfa, baby carrots, baby beets, fennel and more — microgreens offer a range. Having selected your pick, get five shallow pots or trays, which will give a daily yield in a cyclical manner. Using a light medium such as cocopeat, with a fistful of soil and compost, cover the planter 4–5 inches with the soil mix. Sprinkle the seeds all over the tray, almost crowding it with seeds. This is done to get more harvest and prevent wastage of space, since these seedlings don’t need too much space to grow. One can also soak the seeds overnight before spreading it on the bed, to ensure a better germination rate. Place the planter at a spot where it would get soft sun; baby plants don’t take too well to strong light. Because one is working with mini plants one must also take care not to water it like a regular plant/sapling. Once the seeds are in the soil they only need gentle misting. Depending upon the plant you’ve picked the seeds start sprouting between 5–15 days. Ready the five beds and sow the seeds one day apart so you have a cycle of the microgreens going.

Harvest gold

Praful Chandawarkar, owner of Malaka Spice and Tvum restaurants, is a big fan of organically grown local produce. When he launched the restaurant Malaka Spice in the city in 1997 with his late wife, Cheeru Chandawarkar, who was a chef, they convinced a friend’s father to let them use his farm to organically grow the then unheard-of plants like lemongrass, kaffir lime, bird’s eye chilli and Thai basil. Today, Chandawarkar practises the same organic approach with microgreens. While he sources all other ingredients from Cherish, his farm on the outskirts of the city, microgreens are grown at the restaurant since they are too delicate to risk transportation. “At Malaka Spice, we use a lot of amaranth, mustard and sunflower microgreens for their intensity of flavour. They are grown organically in small soil beds on the property, and harvested every four days,” he shares.

Harvesting varies from plant to plant, but a clear indication is when the true leaves surface. Two–four true leaves is a good marker that the greens are ready, and once you spot it, reach out for your scissors. To reap, just snip the pretty baby plants close to the soil bed. Unlike mature plants, microgreens don’t regrow after trimming, for they are cut in their baby stage. After harvesting, repeat the sowing process. Since seedlings don’t take up all the nutrients of the soil in one cycle, the soil mix can be used for three–four crops, after which it needs to be replaced.

Source: Pune Miror

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