Fast, fun & healthy greens for winter

With unfriendly winter growing conditions, how can you continue to supply yourself with fresh green salad leaves? One solution is to  grow micro leaves inside. Micro leaves are simple, fun to grow and they taste delicious.  By using up old seed packets or dried seeds from health food shops you can do it at low cost.

Sow the seeds in trays in any multi-purpose compost and then harvest them when they’re a few inches tall. Most will be ready in just two or three weeks. The sunflower shoots and bean shoots (see images below) were planted 16 days ago. The sunflower shoots are ready to eat. They taste succulant and nutty, adding a spring to winter salads. Harvest them before their second set of leaves appear – these are unpleasantly bitter. The bean and pea shoots will be ready in a few days time. I’ll harvest them just above the bottom leaf, about an inch from the soil, hoping to get a second shoot from each seed a few days later.

Sunflower shoots ready to eat (seed from Tamar Organics)

There’s a wealth of other seeds you can grow as micro leaves: coriander, rocket, fenugreek, Japanese greens, dill –  your imagination is almost the only limit.

You’ll need a lot of seeds to get a reasonable crop. To avoid splashing out  on expensive new seed packets, you can happily experiment with dried pulses and herbs from health food shops – I’ve found dill, fenugreek, mustard, coriander and bean seeds all work well. It’s also a handy way to use up your old seed packets  – leftover broccoli, pea or carrot seeds for example are all worth a go. Baby carrot tops are edible with an unusual but pleasant taste, and the frond like leaf looks pretty in salads.

To get more space to grow the seedlings, I’ve requisitioned my son’s old nappy changing stand, parked it by the bay window, and filled it with seed trays.  Of course the nappy stand is an optional extra – any spare shelf or window ledge with reasonable light will do fine.

Pea and broadbean shoots grown from dried peas and beans from the health shop.

For more ideas on micro greens, Mark Diacono does a useful post on micro leaves here, and there is more on this blog about herb seeds from health food shops, and growing pea shoots.

5 comments… add one

  • Thanks, Mark, for letting me link. And I guess sowing seeds for microgreens is definitely going to be a trial and error process, as well as varying the height I let different plants get to before I harvest them. Much to learn…

  • This was such a helpful post. I just tried my first batch of microgreens and am in the process of posting about it – I hope you won’t mind if I link to your post? One of the things I’ve discovered is that I didn’t sow thickly enough. Do you have any suggestions for that issue?

    • Of course, please feel free to link. How thickly you can sow probably depends on quite a few things like what seeds you are sowing and how big you want the seedlings to grow. I’m relatively new to this myself – and I’ve been surprised by how thickly it’s possible to sow and for them all to come up well. All I can say is that it’s definitely worth experimenting with close spacing!

  • You have a great website! love how you took advantage in every little corner of your balcony.

    • Nice to hear from you fer, I’ve been enjoying your website, too. I grow several Japanese greens on the balcony. I love them and most seem to grow pretty well in our climate here in London. Although I must confess my wasabi is looking rather sad. I suspect it might be a bit tricky in a container… Any tips?


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