Top Ten Microgreens to Grow

May 12, 2022 17 min read 0 Comments

colorful microgreens

Growing the Best Microgreens at Home

Microgreens are an easy-to-grow crop with a quick turnaround. Microgreens require only a small investment to get started with growing, making them the perfect choice for the new grower. Although they are tiny, their nutritional value can be HUGE.*  You will find a wide range of flavors among them. You can use them in salads, soups, drinks, smoothies, sandwiches, and garnishes.

The unique flavors of some varieties kick up any dish, and their vibrant colors are pleasing to the eye. Others have pleasantly mild flavors that blend well into any dish without overpowering it.

We often suggest that beginners start with broccoli and radishes since the seed is inexpensive, and they are two of the easiest microgreens to grow

At the end of this article, we have linked to some interesting research on the nutritional benefits of microgreens in which broccoli and radish feature prominently. Although many claims are made about microgreens' health benefits, we do not make any here.

The research papers linked at the end of this article show that microgreens' nutritional and health benefits can vary dramatically between varieties, growing mediums, and growing methods.

Basic Microgreens Growing Instructions

When we refer to using soil to grow your greens below, we recommend a mix of 50% good organic potting soil and 50% light and fluffy amendment like coco coir. This mix will give you a balance of nutrients and a mixture that drains well but retains enough moisture between daily waterings.

Some growers use additional fertilizers such as Azomite or various liquid fertilizers to feed their microgreens to get the most yield and the best microgreens from each tray. 

If you choose to grow hydroponically with a soilless medium, keep in mind that longer growing crops like herbs will need additional nutrients to feed them until harvest. 

All of our density recommendations here are based on using a 1020 shallow tray with holes to hold your growing plants and media. If you will be stacking you will need to place a 1020 shallow tray with no holes in between each growing tray. The 1020 with no holes can then be used to bottom water once the trays are unstacked. Alternatively 1020 trays with holes can be placed directly into flood trays like we use in our automated grow rack system

If you wish to grow smaller amounts using our 1010 style microgreen trays just cut the recommended seed quantity in half.

Many seed varieties require a pre soak before planting. There is a section below the types listed that explains this process. 

Tips for Sourcing Microgreens Seeds

When sourcing seeds, there are a few factors to consider. 

  • Buy from a reputable seed supplier, their seeds are more likely to be clean and tested for good germination rates.   
  • Select seeds with high germination rates. Unsprouted seeds left on the soil surface make your greens more susceptible to mold issues.
  • Many seeds not listed as “microgreen seeds” can be grown for microgreens as long as you stick to crops with edible leaves. 

All of the seed varieties we have linked here come from True Leaf Market and will open in a new window. We recommend True Leaf as they are a reliable purveyor of high quality, non-GMO, microgreen seeds. They are also now in partnership with Kitazawa Seeds which provides many hard to find Asian seed varieties. 

Here are our Top Ten Microgreens to try

growing microgreens

1. Growing Arugula Microgreens

Arugula microgreens can be a tricky but rewarding green to grow. Their pungent aroma and intense flavor appeal to many, making them one of the best microgreens to grow for the spicy food connoisseur. 

They are light green with delicate foliage that pairs well with many dishes. These grow great both hydroponically and in soil. There is no need to pre soak your seeds, but do keep in mind that the arugula seeds swell and stick when wet, so stacking is not recommended.

Arugula Microgreens Growing Tips

Arugula microgreens will take between 6-12 days to harvest—seed a 1020 tray with around 12 grams of seed. Flatten and moisten your growing surface, then direct sow—no need to cover with soil. Next, you will want to black out the tray. 

We recommend using a 1020 tray flipped over to “blackout” the planted tray or one of our humidity blackout domes. You will start to see germination in about 24 hours. Take care to keep the soil moist. Set out into the light by day 3-4 and switch to bottom watering. Harvest after the arrival of the first true leaf. 

Using Arugula Microgreens in the Kitchen

It is easy to incorporate arugula microgreens into a variety of dishes. Its spicy flavor adds a burst of flavor to salads and can be the finishing touch on any pasta dish, soup, or protein-forward entree. Use your leftover greens to make a flavorful pesto. If you want to get creative with this green, serve it with fresh watermelon for a beautiful play on flavors.

Our Picks for Arugula Microgreens Seeds

Slow Bolt Arugula is the preferred variety for microgreens as it is quick to grow and reliable in germination. 

2. Basil Microgreens Grow Tips

Basil microgreens are best grown in a soil mixture as they will take 20-25 days to grow to a first true leaf stage. Start with 10 grams of seed for a 1020 tray. Firmly flatten and moisten your growing surface. Spread the seeds evenly across the growing surface and wet them using a delicate mist setting on your spray bottle. 

Basil seeds are tiny and easy to displace when dry but stick well once the mucilaginous coating absorbs water. It is best to mist them twice a few minutes apart to allow the seed coating to swell. 

How to Grow the Best Basil Microgreens

After planting, cover with a humidity dome to keep the seeds moist during germination. Place away from direct light and cover with a towel, or use one of our blackout domes until the seeds have sprouted, typically within 3-4 days. 

Once the seeds have sprouted, they will need to remain in the blackout phase or out of direct light for another 4-7 days to lengthen the stems.

Start to bottom-water during this stage. Ensure that your growing space is well ventilated and has ample air movement. 

growing microgreens

One of the most common mistakes new growers will make with basil is overseeding and not supplying enough air movement for the tray to thrive.

This lack of airflow results in damping-off and other mold issues as these greens do not get very tall. Basil needs this blackout phase because, without it, the stem will be so short at the end of your grow that it will be challenging to harvest.

After about 10 days -15 days under lights, your greens will be ready to harvest. 

Our Favorite Ways to Use Basil Microgreens

Basil microgreens can be used for spicy, savory, and sweet dishes. Basil microgreens are popular among chefs who want to add a unique quality to their cuisine. We recommend experimenting with any dish that you would typically add mint, basil, or tarragon to by substituting these mighty greens.

Basil Microgreens Seeds We Love

Genovese Basil is the standard for pestos and garnishes, with a strong growth pattern and deep basil flavor. 

Red Rubin Basil has a lovely red hue to the leaves and red stems. It also has a distinct clove scent that can make a wonderful addition to desserts and cocktails. 

3. How to Grow Broccoli Microgreens

Broccoli microgreens are a staple for beginning growers. They are easy to grow and very rewarding to harvest. They grow best in soil. Once you have broccoli microgreens down, you can basically grow most brassicas the same way, making them a great jumping-off point for new growers. Plant each 1020 tray with 15-20 g of broccoli seeds.

The Easy Way to Grow Broccoli Microgreens

Lightly mist the planted tray and set it under blackout or stacked for 2-3 days. You will keep the seeds moist during this stage by gently spraying them with a misting spray bottle. Once germination has occurred, you will set the trays under light and start bottom watering. Harvest these greens around 7-10 days. 

Using Your Broccoli Microgreens Harvest

Broccoli microgreens are so mild that they literally can make an appearance on any dish. Some prefer to eat them al a carte even! There have been many studies on the nutritional value of these greens that are worth checking out. Like pea shoots, we consider broccoli microgreens a “gateway” microgreen. They are easy to grow and are such a subtle brassica flavor that you will continually find ways to use them in your everyday cooking. Add them to soups, salads, sandwiches, or noodle dishes like you would add spinach.

The Broccoli Microgreens Seeds You Have to Try

Broccoli-Waltham 29 is a grow room powerhouse with quick growing times and good germination. 

Purple Sprouting Broccoli can add great color to a microgreen mix. The leaf and stems can take on a purple hue when grown properly. Exposure to cold increases the purple color.  

4. Cilantro Microgreens Growing Info

Cilantro is a widely requested green from restaurants with its floral, pleasant flavor that compliments everything from sushi to tacos. This microgreen can be tricky to conquer, but it's like riding a bike once you get it. Seek out Cilantro seeds that are split. Trust us when we say you will find that it will cut your seed hull issues at harvest in half. (pun intended) 

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Cilantro Microgreens

Cilantro microgreens prefer soil. You will need to presoak and sanitize for the best results. Each 1020 tray will require around 30 g of split seeds. Soak seeds in water for 2-4 hours.

Rinse in a colander, soak again in an h202 solution for 5-10 minutes, and finish with a good rinse before planting. If you prefer to skip the sanitizing, rinse your seeds well before planting after their initial soak. 

Spread out seeds on a 1020 with tamped, moist soil. Stacking is the best approach for cilantro to help reduce seed hulls still attached at harvest. We suggest adding weight as well. You will keep them stacked for 7-9 days (spraying with a water bottle daily) before bringing them into indirect light for 2-3 days, followed by full light.

Once out of the stacking stage, switch to bottom watering. Depending on your or your customers' preference, wait until the true leaf stage to harvest (around 15-20 days). Some prefer to harvest a little younger as the greens tend to have a milder flavor. 

Our Favorite Ways to Use Cilantro Microgreens

Cilantro microgreens can be used as a garnish on just about any dish, with their mild floral flavor. They are great on sushi and pair well with Indian cuisine and spicy dishes.

Anywhere you would use the full-grown herb, Cilantro microgreens will work well. 

The Best Cilantro Microgreens Seeds

Leisure Split Seed is our favorite cilantro seed to grow for microgreens. The round seed hulls have been split into individual seeds and it has a more even germination rate. 

The whole seed cilantro actually contains multiple seeds and the hull is prone to staying on the growing greens making them more difficult to harvest and clean. It is worth noting however that some chefs find the attached hull of interest for small plates and passed appetizers.   

5. How to Grow the Best Kale Microgreens

Kale microgreens will be green with flavoring resembling red leaf lettuces and traditional romaine, so it is an excellent base for a microgreen salad.

Our Best Tips for Growing Kale Microgreens

The Kale microgreen prefers to be grown hydroponically. You will use about 1 ounce of seeds per 1020 tray, and no need to pre-soak them. Use a blackout dome for 3-5 days. On days 4 or 5, carefully place an empty tray onto your growing crop. This will help to strengthen the stems before exposing them to light.

Germination will occur in 2-3 days, and the estimated time to harvest is 8-12 days. 

What to Do with Your Kale Microgreens

Kale microgreens have a muted, subtle flavor making them incredibly versatile. Many completely replace their salad greens or use them as a filler to add texture to their favorite go-to salads. If you are an avid shake maker, these are a must.

Best Varieties for Kale Microgreens

Red Russian Kale has a dark green leaf with stems that range in color including hints of pick, purple and red. Grown to its first frilled true leaf, the shape adds visual interest to mixes. 

Dinosaur/Lacinato Kale has a deep green, almost bluish leaf. The mild nutty flavor is great for those who do not like the spiciness of many brassica microgreens.  

6. Growing High-Quality Mustard Microgreens

Mustard microgreens are grown similarly to broccoli. They boast excellent germination rates and take very little time to harvest stage. They do best grown in soil- with no need to presoak. Seed each 1020 tray with 10-15 grams of seed.

Growing Tips for Mustard Microgreens

Grow under blackout or stacked for 2-3 days. Bring into light after germination and bottom water until harvest at around 10 days -17 days. This has a longer growing period because some prefer to grow slightly larger as the true-leaf to the baby green stage is desirable for many dishes. This is a personal preference.

Best Ways to Use Mustard Microgreens

Mustard microgreens are a standout in the flavor department. They pack quite the punch and, with select varieties, can be a source of bright colors for any dish with red to bright purple hues. Add this green to salads, sandwiches, and anywhere you want to add a strong mustard flavor. Add this green to soups and hot noodle dishes before serving for a subdued mustard flavor.

Choosing the Varieties of Mustard Microgreen Seeds

Osaka Purple Mustard has a beautiful red blush to the center of its green leaves. The flavor is strongly reminiscent of wasabi and makes a great garnish for sushi. 

Southern Giant Curled Mustard provides a strongly spicy, traditional mustard bite that stands up well in complex dishes. Bright white stems easily grow taller than most brassica types. 

7. How to Grow Your Red Cabbage Microgreens

Red acre cabbage can be grown in soil or do well hydroponically grown. You will use about 1 ounce of seeds per 1020 tray, and no need to pre-soak.

Red Cabbage Microgreens Tips and Tricks

Use a blackout dome for 3-6 days, and on Days 4 and 5, flip an empty tray onto your growing crop or set it into indirect light to strengthen the stems before exposing them to light. Germination will occur 2-5 days, with an estimated time to harvest being 8-12 days. These microgreens will have deep green leaves and purple stems. 

What to do With Your Red Cabbage Microgreens

They have a mild, cabbage-like flavor, so they make an excellent addition to salads, sandwiches, or slaw. They boast bright hues throughout their stem, making them a perfect garnish. If added to a spring roll or on pasta dishes, their color especially pops.

Our Top Picks for Red Cabbage Microgreen Seeds

Red Acre Cabbage has gorgeous purple stems with color continuing up to the center of its green leaves. A standard addition to any mild mix, this one also stands alone well and is popular for its mild flavor. 

peas

8. Our Favorite Ways to Grow Pea Shoot Microgreens

The pea microgreens prefer a soil mixture as it has large roots and grows tall. Peas need more nutrients than other greens because of their size and the time it takes them to grow. Pre-soak the seeds in cold water for 6-12 hours before planting. You will need to use plenty of water and a large bowl when soaking because these seeds soak up large amounts of water.  

Our Tips for the Best Pea Shoot Microgreens

After soaking and sterilizing, gently transfer your seeds to a colander and rinse them about 1-2 times daily until you see the tiny white root tip start to emerge. They are then ready for soil! Use about 12 ounces (or 1 ½ cups) of seeds per 1020 tray (mesh trays work great for these greens). Use a blackout lid or stack for the first 3-5 days, but mist twice a day during the blackout time.

Once out of blackout or stacking, switch to bottom watering. The estimated time to harvest is 8-12 days. Carefully harvest your plants and gently rinse and dry. These microgreens will be green with a fresh, mildly sweet flavor and crunchy texture. 

Learn How to Use Pea Shoot Microgreens

They make a beautiful garnish topping to an omelet or make a tasty addition to a strawberry salad. Since their flavor is slight but sweet, they are a great “gateway” microgreen to introduce to kids or picky eaters.

One of the best dishes for pea tendril microgreens is a quick stir fry with garlic, peanut oil, soy sauce, and a little sesame oil. But, you also might just find you like to eat them straight from the tray.

The Tried and True Pea Shoot Microgreen Seed Varieties

There are two main types of peas grown for microgreens; traditional peas have long sturdy stems and larger leaves. Tendril peas have exaggerated long curled tendrils popular with high end chefs for their visual appeal and stronger flavor. Both types can lean towards stringiness if grown for too long so be sure and harvest by the 12 day mark. 

Dundale Peas grow tall with an abundance of sweet, tasty leaves towards the top of the plant. The straight stems make them a breeze to harvest. One of the few microgreens that can be held for a second harvest, keep in mind that the regrowth will be less sweet and a bit more fibrous. 

Speckled Peas are a reliable and heavy producer of pea shoots excellent for fresh eating or light cooking. 

Afila Tendril Peas have an abundance of curly tendrils and shorter stems. Less weight and bulk than other types, these are best grown for specialty markets. 

Sunflower Sprouts

9. All About Growing Sunflower Microgreens

Sunflower microgreens are such fun microgreens to grow. Although a bit messy, with their seed hulls and the additional soaking process, you will probably find it worth it once you taste their nutty flavor. We recommend presoaking and sanitizing sunflower seeds. Soak the seeds for 6-12 hours, followed by a thorough rinse.

Tips for Growing Sunflowers as Microgreens

Next, pre-sprout the microgreen seeds in a mesh colander for 1-2 days with frequent rinsing before planting at 250 g per 1020 on tamped, moist soil. Some prefer to cover with a thin layer of soil. Others stack and weight their trays for 2-3 days. Frequently check and mist your trays during this period.

Afterward, set up indirect light to encourage the new sprout to reach and add a little length for ease of harvest. You will want to bottom water these greens until harvest at approximately 9-12 days. If you find that you are dealing with mold issues, reduce your seeding rate and increase your ventilation.

If the seed hulls continue to stick, check the humidity level in your grow room as it may be too dry (ideal being around 45-50%) or add additional sprout time in the colander. 

Sunflower Microgreens Uses in the Kitchen

Sunflower microgreens, commonly known as “sunnies” are the best microgreens to grow for salads as they not only add a nice crunch, their nutty flavor compliments any flavor profile. They make a great snack all by themselves or an excellent garnish for various entrees. We have even heard of people covering them in chocolate as a dessert! 

The Best Sunflower Microgreen Seeds

Black Oil Sunflower is the type most commonly grown for micros. True Leaf offers both a Large Seed and Small Seed version depending on your preference. The large seeded option produces larger cotyledons while the small seeded option offers far more seeds per pound. 

Red Storm Sunflowers are a recently introduced variety with colorful stems ranging from deep red to pink. 

10. Radish Microgreens Grow Tips

Radish microgreens are the best microgreens to grow for those wanting to add a horse-radish type spice to protein forward dishes and to sandwiches and salads. They come in a variety of colors and have a great shelf-life.

How to Easily Grow Radish Microgreens

The radish microgreen will grow equally well in soil or hydroponically.  Use about 30 grams of seeds per 1020 tray. Since radishes are a larger seed they may benefit from a quick sterilizing spray with h2o2, although there is no need for pre-soaking.  You will notice germination 1-2 days.  The estimated time to harvest is 5-12 days and will have a strong radish flavor and slight crunch. 

Our Favorite Ways to Use Harvested Radish Microgreens

Radish microgreens served fresh can be even spicier than their adult root counterparts. They are wonderful for adding a spicy kick and a burst of color to sandwiches and cold noodle dishes.

When added to soups or other hot dishes just before serving their spice is greatly offset by the heat becoming a mild note that enhances the dish overall.

Add radish microgreens to top off a watermelon, avocado and feta salad. Can be used in any dish that calls for fresh mint at the end to add a summery spice that takes your dish to the next level. 

The Top Seed Varieties We Love for Radish Microgreens

There are many wonderful varieties of radish that grow well as microgreens. Some offer colorful stems with green leaves while others have dramatic red and purple leaves with matching stems. Try growing different varieties in the same tray for an eye-catching mix. 

Daikon Radish has the traditional green leaf and white stem. Popular for Japanese cuisine. 

Rambo Radish is the most reliable germinator of the purple leafed types. Purple leaves with reddish purple stems will dominate with some green or variegated ones mixed in. 

China Rose has pink stems, green leaves and a wonderful crunchiness. 

SOAKING AND STERILIZING SEEDS FOR GROWING MICROGREENS

When using seed varieties such as beetroot microgreens and cilantro microgreens that require a pre-soak before planting; It is a good idea to add a short soak H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) to this regimen.This can help prevent seed-borne diseases that could result in tray loss. Wear gloves and protective eyewear when mixing or spraying H202, follow recommended safety precautions on the bottle.

  • Find a sterile container to soak your seeds.  
  • Rinse the seeds before the soak. 
  • Soak your seeds for the allotted time, 4-12 hours for most varieties. 
  • Rinse and drain the seeds. 
  • Soak in a 3% H2O2 solution for 5 minutes before rinsing one last time. 

When sterilizing smaller seeds like buckwheat microgreens or alfalfa microgreens, diluted H2O2 can be used as a spray to ensure a sterile starting point. After seeding your trays, mist them with a 3% solution. Let it sit for no more than 5 minutes before misting thoroughly with water. The trays are then ready to be stacked or placed under a blackout dome depending on type.

*Making Sense of Nutritional Claims for Microgreens

If you spend any time doing research on the nutrient content of microgreens you will find that the estimated amount and composition of vitamins like vitamin c and minerals present in microgreens vary greatly.These variations can be attributed both to differences in varieties as well as differences in growing methods.

One of the most commonly cited studies was profiled back in 2012 under the title Mighty Microgreens by the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources at UMD. The researchers found that microgreens contained between 4 and 40 times more the nutrient content by weight than the mature counterparts. 

Although many claims are made about the health benefits of microgreens we do not make any here for a few reasons. The research papers linked below show that the nutritional benefits and health benefits of microgreens can vary dramatically between varieties, growing mediums and growing methods of the microgreens grown.

Many of the studies we reviewed designate that the microgreens studied were grown in soil. Everyones’ nutritional needs and health issues vary so the best choices for you nutritionally are up to you.  

The resources linked below are a great jumping off point if you are interested in doing further research on the possible health benefits and nutritional content of microgreens. 

  1. Profiling of Polyphenols and Glucosinolates in Kale and Broccoli Microgreens Grown under Chamber and Windowsill Conditions by Ultrahigh-Performance Liquid Chromatography High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry
    Zhihao Liu, Jenna Shi, Jiawei Wan, Quynchi Pham, Zhi Zhang, Jianghao Sun, Liangli Yu, Yaguang Luo, Thomas T.Y. Wang, and Pei Chen
    ACS Food Science & Technology 20222 (1), 101-113
    DOI: 10.1021/acsfoodscitech.1c00355

Abstract: “Vegetables from the Brassica family are rich in many health-beneficial components, including high levels of polyphenols and glucosinolates (GSLs). However, their exact metabolite compositions are highly affected by cultivating and environmental conditions. Here, we provide the first report of polyphenol and GSL composition of kale and broccoli microgreens grown in growth chamber and windowsill environments. The samples were harvested 10 days after sowing and analyzed using ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry. Principal component analysis was performed to visualize group clustering, trends, and discriminative ion features. Flavonol derivatives (21 in kale and 7 in broccoli) and hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives (14 in kale and 22 in broccoli) were identified under both growing conditions. Additionally, GSLs, including 7 in kale and 9 in broccoli, were detected. The results demonstrated a clear variation in secondary metabolites between the two growing conditions.”

  1. Microgreens: Assessment of Nutrient Concentrations. Lester, Gene & Xiao, Zhenlei & Luo, Yaguang & Wang, Qin. (2013). 

Abstract: Microgreens (seedlings of green vegetables and herbs) are gaining in popularity as a new culinary ingredient, providing intense flavors, vivid colors, and crisp texture when added to salads and other food preparations. Although microgreens would inherently be regarded as a healthy addition to the diet, no information is available on their nutritional content. The present study determined the concentrations of essential vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and K1 in 25 commercially available microgreens. Results showed that different microgreens provide widely varying amounts of the four vitamins, but regardless they generally have significantly higher concentrations of these phytonutrients in comparison with mature leaves from the same plant species. These phytonutrient data provide the first scientific basis for evaluating nutritional benefits and health benefits of microgreens and, when included in the USDA food composition database, can be used by health agencies and consumers to make educated choices about inclusion of microgreens as part of a healthy diet.



Also in Microgreens Guides & Resources

Microgreen tray with humidity dome
How to Use a Humidity Dome for Seed Starting

March 29, 2022 6 min read 0 Comments

Starting up seeds for this year's garden? Here is the lowdown on the humidity dome debate when starting seeds in cell trays or starting a tray of microgreens. Humidity domes are a useful tool to use during germination, often used in conjunction with heat mats.
Read More
Microgreens grown with lights
What Lights Do I Need to Grow Microgreens?

February 18, 2022 9 min read 0 Comments

Microgreens grow well under a variety of light sources. This means it is easy to start where you are and add on as your needs and your available funds increase. A few trays in a sunny window for the home grower, up through multiple vertical rack systems with dedicated growing lights for commercial production.
Read More
Growing Microgreens with Coco Coir and Shallow Trays
Learn How to Grow Microgreens at Home: a Step-By-Step Guide

February 04, 2022 11 min read 0 Comments

Microgreens are rapidly emerging as an added-value ingredient in kitchens and restaurants. Chefs love to use them to enhance the flavor and appearance of their plates. Microgreen's short turnaround from seeding to harvest allows for a great opportunity to learn systems quickly. 
Read More