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Can Any Seed Be Used for Microgreens? Discover the Surprising Truth [and My Personal Favorites]

can any seed be used for microgreens

When I first dabbled in the art of microgreen gardening, I was curious and a bit sceptical: can any seed be used for microgreens?

My journey, filled with trials, errors, and successes, led me to the answer:

Yes, any seed can be used for microgreens. Microgreens are essentially seedlings and can be grown from regular garden seeds.

However, my experience taught me there’s more to the story.

We’ll explore these nuances, understanding that while any seed has the potential, not all seeds might be appropriate to grow as a microgreen.

Are Microgreen Seeds Different From Regular Seeds?

So, can any seed be used for microgreens? Well, guess what? The seeds themselves aren’t different. But here’s the catch – it’s all about the amount!

A Tale of Quantity and Efficiency

The main difference between microgreen seeds and regular garden seeds lies in the quantity provided in each packet. When we think of planting in our gardens, a packet of seeds is usually enough to yield a healthy crop of vegetables, herbs, or flowers. However, the world of microgreens operates on a different scale.

For a lush tray of microgreens, you need a substantially larger number of seeds. We’re not just talking double or triple the amount, but often many times more than what you would plant in a traditional garden setting.

The Cost-Effectiveness Factor

So, while it’s technically possible to use regular garden seeds to grow microgreens, it’s not the most wallet-friendly choice. Garden seeds are packaged and priced for conventional gardening, not for the dense sowing required for microgreens. You might find yourself going through several packets of garden seeds just to fill a single tray for microgreens, which can quickly become expensive.

Microgreen Seeds: Tailored for Purpose

In contrast, microgreen seeds are often sold in larger quantities, reflecting the needs of microgreens’ cultivation. These bulk packages are more cost-effective for growing microgreens, ensuring that you have a sufficient supply of seeds for several batches of greens.

The Bottom Line

So, while you can experiment with garden seeds for microgreens, especially if you have them on hand, the most efficient route for regular microgreen cultivation is to opt for seeds specifically labelled for microgreens.

Can Any Seed Be Used for Microgreens?

Well, the straightforward answer is yes, but let’s dig a bit deeper into this topic.

The Surprising Truth About Microgreen Seeds

Contrary to what you might expect, there’s no such thing as a “special” microgreen seed. That’s right, the seeds used for growing microgreens are essentially the same as ordinary vegetable seeds. This revelation often comes as a surprise to many budding microgreen enthusiasts. Whether it’s seeds for radishes, kale, or basil, the ones you use in your garden are fundamentally the same as those you’d use for microgreens.

Regular Seeds in the World of Microgreens

So, what does this mean for your microgreen adventures? It opens up a world of possibilities! You can venture into growing microgreens using the regular seeds you might already have at home. If you’ve got leftover seeds from your garden planting, or if there’s a particular vegetable or herb you adore, why not give it a try as a microgreen?

However, it’s essential to remember our earlier discussion about the quantity needed. Regular seed packets might not contain enough seeds for a dense, flourishing tray of microgreens. So, while it’s perfectly fine to experiment with these, for more sustained or larger-scale microgreen cultivation, you might need more than what’s typically available in a garden seed packet.

What Exactly are Microgreens Seeds?

As we venture deeper into our microgreens journey, it’s crucial to understand not just the seeds, but the unique way these tiny plants are cultivated.

The Seed Itself: No Different Than Others

Microgreen seeds are not distinct or different from the seeds used for full-grown plants. That’s right, the very same seeds that grow into the lush vegetables in your garden are the ones we use to cultivate microgreens. This includes a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and even some grains.

The Distinction Lies in Cultivation

The real difference between growing microgreens and other plants is not in the seed, but in how these seeds are cultivated. Let’s delve into these unique cultivation methods:

  • Grown in Shallow Trays: Unlike traditional gardening, microgreens are grown in shallow trays. These trays are perfect for indoor gardening and require minimal space, making microgreens an excellent option for urban gardeners or those with limited outdoor space.
  • Soil-less Mediums or Minimal Soil: Interestingly, microgreens can thrive without traditional soil. They’re often grown in soil-less mediums like coconut coir, or even hydroponically.
  • Densely Sown Seeds: One of the key characteristics of microgreen cultivation is the density of planting. Seeds are sown much more densely than in traditional gardening. This close planting results in a thick mat of greens, which is a signature trait of microgreens.
  • Short Growth Cycle: Microgreens have a remarkably short growth cycle. Typically, they’re ready for harvest in about 10-15 days, although some slower-growing varieties might take up to a month. This rapid turnaround is a delight for those who love seeing quick results from their gardening efforts.
  • Harvested When Just a Few Inches Tall: Unlike their full-grown counterparts, microgreens are harvested when they’re just a few inches tall. This is usually after the first true leaves have developed, capturing them at a stage bursting with flavour and nutrients.
  • Harvesting Technique: The harvesting of microgreens is as unique as their cultivation. They are harvested by cutting the stems at the base with scissors.

Comparing Microgreens Seeds and Sprouting Seeds

The Seeds are the Same

First off, it’s important to note that the seeds used for microgreens and sprouts are identical. These seeds can include varieties of vegetables, herbs, and grains. The real divergence lies in how these seeds are cultivated.

The Cultivation Process: Soil vs Water

  • Microgreens: Grown in Soil or Soilless Mediums
    • Microgreens are cultivated in a thin layer of soil or a soilless medium like coconut coir or peat moss.
    • They require light for photosynthesis, which contributes to the development of true leaves.
    • The growing period for microgreens typically ranges from 10 days to a month, depending on the variety.
  • Sprouts: Grown in Water
    • Sprouts are germinated seeds that are grown entirely in water, without the need for soil or a growing medium.
    • They are typically ready to eat in just a few days, much faster than microgreens.
    • Sprouts are harvested before they develop true leaves, often when the seed has just sprouted and the first root starts to appear.

The Harvest: Different Stages of Plant Growth

  • Microgreens: Harvested at a slightly more mature stage, microgreens are cut above the soil line after their first true leaves have developed. This stage of growth contributes to their distinct texture and intense flavour profile.
  • Sprouts: In contrast, sprouts are harvested much earlier in the plant’s life cycle. The entire sprout, including the seed, root, and immature leaves, is consumed. This results in a crunchier texture and a different nutritional profile.

Can You Use Bird Seeds for Microgreens?

While the idea might seem practical, especially considering the lower cost of bird seeds, there are several important factors to consider before scattering those seeds into your microgreen trays.

The Theoretical Possibility vs Practical Concerns

Theoretically, yes, it is possible to grow microgreens from bird seeds. After all, many bird seeds are simply seeds of common plants, grains, or grasses. However, the practicality of using bird seeds for microgreens is another story. Let’s delve into why this approach is generally discouraged.

  • Different Packing and Treatment:
    • Bird seeds are packaged and treated to be bird feed, not for human consumption. This means the processes they undergo are vastly different from those meant for seeds designated for gardening purposes.
  • Cleanliness Issues:
    • Seeds intended for birds might not be as clean as those meant for growing food plants. The cleanliness of seeds is crucial when growing microgreens, as we consume them at a young stage where any contaminants could pose a health risk.
  • Chemical Treatments:
    • Often, bird seeds are treated with chemicals to enhance their shelf life and prevent pests. These treatments are not designed with human safety in mind, as they are not intended for seeds that will be grown for consumption.
  • Unknown Germination Rates:
    • Seeds for gardening are tested for germination rates, ensuring a high likelihood of successful growth. Bird seeds do not undergo these tests, which means their germination rate can be unpredictable, leading to sparse or inconsistent microgreen growth.
  • Higher Risk of Disease:
    • Bird seeds have a higher probability of harbouring diseases or fungi, primarily because they are not processed and stored to be used as seeds for growing plants.

A Matter of Safety and Quality

Given these considerations, I would not recommend using bird seeds for microgreens. While the idea might be tempting due to the lower cost, the potential health risks and the lower quality of the resulting microgreens outweigh the initial savings.

Using Microgreens Seeds in the Garden

Can the same seeds used for microgreens find a place in your garden? The answer is a delightful yes, and it’s a wonderfully economical approach to gardening.

The Versatility of Microgreens Seeds

The beauty of microgreens seeds lies in their versatility. These seeds are no different from the regular seeds used in gardens. They’re essentially the same seeds, just packaged in larger quantities for microgreen cultivation. So, if you find yourself with a surplus of microgreen seeds, or if you’re looking to be more economical in your gardening endeavours, these seeds can serve a dual purpose.

Why Opt for Microgreens Seeds in the Garden?

  • Economical Choice:
    • If you already have a bigger packet of microgreen seeds of a particular variety, it makes perfect sense to use them in your garden rather than purchasing a separate, smaller packet of garden seeds. This is not only cost-effective but also a wise use of resources.
  • Same Seeds, Different Cultivation:
    • The seeds used for microgreens are identical to those planted in gardens. Whether you’re looking to grow herbs, vegetables, or even certain flowers, the seeds will grow to full maturity when planted in a garden setting.
  • Flexibility in Planting:
    • You can choose to save a few seeds from your microgreen planting and grow them as seedlings first, or you can sow them directly into your garden. Either way, these seeds will adapt and grow into full-sized plants.

My Favorite Seeds for Growing Microgreens

Here are some of my favorite seeds for growing different types of microgreens.

Microgreen Vegetables

  • Rocket
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Chard
  • Cress
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Pak Choi
  • Peas
  • Radishes

Each of these brings a unique flavour and texture, ranging from the spicy zing of mustards to the sweet crunch of peas.

Microgreen Herbs

Herbs are often slower to grow, but they are worth it as they can pack so much flavour! Here’s a list of my favorite herbs to grow as microgreens:

  • Basil
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Shiso
  • Sorrel

Microgreen Flowers

Did your know that some flowers can also be grown as microgreens? Here are some of my favorites:

  • Borage
  • Dandelion
  • Marigold
  • Sunflowers
  • Nasturtiums
  • Violas

Microgreen Grains and Grasses

Grains and grasses might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of microgreens, but they are a fantastic addition to this category. Here are some grains and grasses that I have successfully grown as microgreens:

  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Corn

The Flavor Spectrum: Mild vs Spicy Microgreens

Microgreens are not just nutritious; they also pack serious flavours. From the subtly sweet to the peppery punch, there’s a microgreen for every palate.

Mild Microgreens

Mild microgreens are perfect for those who prefer a softer, more subtle flavour in their dishes. They complement without overpowering and are excellent for balancing out stronger tastes. Here are some of my favorite mild microgreens:

  • Amaranth
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Chia
  • Cilantro
  • Clover
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mizuna
  • Peas
  • Sunflowers
  • Pak Choi

These varieties offer a range of flavours from the earthy sweetness of beets to the nutty tones of sunflowers. They’re great for adding a fresh, green element to your meals without overwhelming other flavours.

Spicy Microgreens

For those who love a bit of zing in their food, spicy microgreens are a perfect choice. These varieties bring a peppery, piquant flavour that can really elevate a dish. Here’s a list of microgreens that pack a spicy punch:

  • Arugula
  • Cress
  • Mustards
  • Radish

Spicy microgreens like arugula and mustard offer a sharp, peppery taste, while radish microgreens bring a hot, wasabi-like flavor.

Remember, the best part about growing microgreens is the joy of experimentation. Mix and match, blend the mild with the spicy, and discover your own perfect green symphony!

The Growth Pace: Slow vs Fast Growing Microgreens

Microgreens can be broadly categorized into two groups based on how quickly they grow – slow-growing and fast-growing. Understanding this difference is essential for planning your harvesting schedule and ensuring a continuous supply of fresh greens.

Slow-Growing Microgreens: A Lesson in Patience

Slow-growing microgreens, as the name suggests, take their time to reach harvestable size. This group usually takes between two to four weeks before they’re ready to grace your plate. Here are some examples of slow-growing microgreens:

  • Amaranth
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Chard
  • Chervil
  • Cilantro
  • Cutting Celery
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Salad Burnet
  • Shiso

While slow-growing microgreens require more patience, they are often worth the wait. They tend to have more developed flavours and textures.

Fast-Growing Microgreens: A Quick Harvest

On the other end of the spectrum, we have fast-growing microgreens. These varieties are ready to harvest in as little as ten to fourteen days, making them ideal for those who are eager to enjoy their microgreen harvest sooner. Some fast-growing microgreens include:

  • Borage
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cress
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mizuna
  • Mustards
  • Radishes

If you’re looking for a continuous harvest, I would recommend planting a mix of slow and fast-growing varieties. This way, as you harvest your fast-growing microgreens, your slow-growers will be maturing, providing a balanced cycle of growth and harvest.

Microgreen Seed Mixes

Are you still pondering over which seeds to pick for your microgreens?

Well, I have good news for those of you who might feel overwhelmed by the choices: microgreens mixed seed varieties.

These pre-mixed seed packets are a fantastic way to simplify your microgreen cultivation, offering a harmonious blend of flavours and textures.

Commercial Mixed Seed Varieties

Let’s take a look at some popular mixed seed varieties available:

  • Micro Mild Mix:
    • Includes Mizuna, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. This blend is perfect for those who prefer a gentler flavour profile. It’s a great way to add a subtle, nutritious punch to your meals without overwhelming other flavours.
  • Spicy Micro Mix:
    • Comprises red and green mustards. This mix is ideal for those who love a bit of spice. It’s a great way to liven up your dishes with a zesty, piquant flavour.

Blend Your Own: The Trick to a Successful Mix

When selecting or creating your own seed mix, the key is to blend seeds with similar growth characteristics, particularly focusing on their germination rate. Here’s why this is important:

  • Managing the Blackout Period: If there’s too significant a time gap in germination rates, it becomes challenging to manage the blackout period effectively. The blackout period is crucial for certain microgreens, and uneven germination can lead to inconsistent growth.
  • Avoiding Overcrowding: Mixing seeds with drastically different growth rates can result in faster-growing varieties overshadowing the slower ones. This can lead to uneven growth and can crowd out the slower-growing seeds, affecting the overall yield.

Though a wide variety of seeds can be used for microgreen cultivation, not all are suitable or safe. There are some types of seeds that I would generally recommend avoiding.

Lettuces: Delicate and Challenging

  • Lettuces: One might think that lettuce, being a leafy green, would be ideal for microgreen cultivation. However, lettuces can be quite challenging in a microgreen setup. They are often too delicate and require very careful handling, which can be impractical in dense microgreen planting.
  • Wilting Issue: Another problem with lettuce as microgreens is their tendency to wilt rather quickly. Compared to other microgreen varieties that are sturdier and have a longer shelf life post-harvest, lettuces can be more troublesome to manage.

Inedible Leafy Greens: A Toxic Risk

  • Inedible or Toxic Greens: Some plants, despite being common in gardens, have leaves and stems that are inedible or even toxic. These should be avoided at all costs in microgreen cultivation.
  • Examples to Avoid: Plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and okra are examples of seeds that should not be used for growing microgreens. Their leaves and stems contain substances that can be harmful if consumed.

Now It’s Your Turn

Now you know which seeds to use for microgreens!

Just remember:

  • Microgreens are simply seedlings of plants that we would normally allow to grow larger.
  • They can be grown from regular garden seeds.
  • It’s more economical to buy seeds for microgreens in larger packs.
  • Experiment with the flavour spectrum to find your personal favourites.

So why wait? Plant those seeds today, and in just a matter of days, you’ll be harvesting tiny, yet mighty, greens that will transform your meals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best seeds for growing microgreens?

There is a wide variety of seeds suitable for growing microgreens. Some popular choices include radish, kale, rocket, broccoli, basil, and coriander. Experiment with different seed types to find your favourites and enjoy their unique flavours!

Can I grow microgreens from common vegetable seeds?

Yes, you can grow microgreens from many common vegetable seeds. Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and mustard can all be grown as microgreens. Just make sure to choose high-quality, untreated seeds for the best results.

Are there any seeds that shouldn’t be used for microgreens?

While many seeds can be used for microgreens, you should avoid using treated seeds, as they can be harmful to both the microgreens and the consumer. Stick with high-quality seeds that are free from contaminants.

Do I need special seeds for microgreens?

No, you don’t need special seeds for microgreens. You can use a variety of seeds like arugula, basil, broccoli, cabbage, chia, coriander, kale, mustard, radish, and wheatgrass. Make sure to choose high-quality, untreated seeds.

How do I choose the right seeds for my microgreens?

When choosing seeds for your microgreens, consider factors like taste, nutritional value, and growth time. Experiment with different seeds to find the ones you enjoy the most. Always choose high-quality, untreated seeds for the best results.

Are there any seed types that grow microgreens faster?

Some seed types like radish and mustard tend to grow faster than others, reaching harvest size in just a week or two. Try different seeds and find the ones that grow at a pace that suits your needs and schedule.