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In this week’s Backyard Bounty podcast we learn how to grow microgreens as Nicole chats with Pamela of Sunshine Green’s Farm.
What You’ll Learn
- How to grow microgreens
- What you need to get started
- What are microgreens?
- The difference between microgreens sprouts
- How nutritious microgreens are
- The seeds you can grow into a microgreens
- The seeds that are good for beginners
Sunshine Green’s Farm is a small, indoor vertical urban farm 3 blocks from downtown Colorado Springs. Initially, Pamela only offered 5 different types of microgreens but now grows and sells over 20 different types!
Pamela started gardening and learning about microgreens at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019. Gardening had become her therapy, especially since she found out she was going to be laid off. Microgreens were becoming a bigger part of her life when she needed more nutrients in her diet, so instead of finding another job, she decided to start her own business and microgreens were her immediate inspiration.
Pamela loves growing microgreens and particularly enjoys at they are so varied with many different flavors and she wanted to offer a variety of the freshest, amazing tasting, nutritionally dense, live superfood to her customer’s table.
All of the microgreens are sold live so that customers can have the freshest and most nutrient-dense microgreens. All of my microgreens are grown hydroponically, and all of the seeds are non-GMO, have been tested for harmful bacteria, and no pesticides are ever used. Even though microgreens don’t need fertilizer, Pamela does add a light organic fertilizer during the growing process as she noticed that this addition really helped bring out the flavor of the microgreens.
If you are within the Sunshines Greens Farms delivery area be sure to use the coupon code Heritage10 for 10% off your first order. If you prefer to try and grow your own microgreens Pamela offers some great customizable kits – Don’t forget that coupon code (link in the resources below).
Resources & Links Mentioned
- Sunshine Green’s Farm Website / Instagram
- Sunshine Green’s Farm Shop – be sure to use Heritage10 for 10% off your first order
- Microgreen recipes
- Journal of Food Science, Microgreen nutrition, food safety, and shelf life
- Microgreen Seeding Density Calculator
- True Leaf Market,
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds
- Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds
- *Seed trays
- *Coconut coir grow mats
- *LED Grow lights
*Denotes affiliate links
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Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from HeritageAcresMarket.com, where each week you'll be hearing inspiring stories and educational interviews with expert guests to help your hobby farm thrive. And now, here's your host, Nicole.
Hello, everybody. And thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host, Nicole. And today I'm joined by Pamela with "Sunshine and Greens Farm". And today we're going to talk about growing and using microgreens. So Pamela, thank you so much for joining me today.
Thank you so much for having me today, Nicole?
Absolutely. So you have a microgreen business here in my home state of Colorado, you're actually not too far away from me. And I know that that this is what you do for a living now. So can you tell us a little bit more about how you got started into microgreens. And about your your business as well?
Absolutely. About two years ago, I wanted to start growing my own food. I had never grown anything, so I had no idea what to expect. I did some YouTube surfing for garden videos, and I stumbled across microgreens. And I fell in love with them. So then I started trying to find all the information I could about growing microgreens and I just immersed myself in it. So after like all night spending, trying to find all the information about microgreens I was super excited to go to my local garden center to go pick up some starter soil seeds grow trays, and then I went online for like role lights and specific microgreen seeds. Once I got all my supplies, I went and started planting I had really fallen in love with gardening, it was really therapeutic for me, which is what I needed in my life at that time. I had learned in the beginning of 2019 that'd I be laid off and jobless by April, the bank I was working for was closing locations, and if I wanted to keep my job, I would have to reapply. I had been working at industry for over 10 years and was ready for a change. So I was like, I want to start my own business. And all the microgreen videos I saw gave me an idea. Why not start my own microgreens business. From what I saw on YouTube most microgreen farmers sold their product already cut, I wanted to sell my life, meaning that the customer will take home a life plant and harvest their own greens. The main reason why I wanted to sell it that way is because I wanted my customers to have the most nutrient dense superfood. And what better way of doing that than to offer a live product. I had already started growing microgreens for myself and my husband. We loved eating them and I loved growing them. Why not share the microgreen love? I first started with about five different types of microgreens. And now I grow over 30 different types of microgreens, and I'm currently working on adding a few more this year, which I'm really excited about.
Awesome. Well, it's really great to know that you were able to find an industry that you enjoy and was able to work in his way into an income, especially when you were about to get laid off. I'm sure that was pretty scary.
Oh yeah, it was very stressful.
So what exactly is a micro green, I assume since it's called a micro green that it's different from a sprout?
That is correct. So the two main differences between sprouts and microgreens is that sprouts are only grown to their first growth stage where basically the root towel has started coming out of the seed. And sometimes people will consume them when the first leaf starts to poke out as well. So it really depends on the person and how they like to eat their sprouts. Or microgreens, you need some type of grow medium substrate, they are grown actually to the true leaf stage, which if people that aren't familiar with, with gardening and growing things, when you first grow a plant, there are two stages: you have the first leaf which is the little baby leaf that starts collecting all the sunlight and energy that it needs to grow. And then it starts developing the second leaf which is called the true leaf. And that's the stage that you will eat your microgreens at so that's the state that you would want to harvest them. And with microgreens they're really great because you're eating them at such a young stage, you're getting about 4 to 40 times more nutrients than their full grown counterparts. And they really do taste like their counterparts. Microgreens are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, Iron, Magnesium, fiber, I found a really great website that goes more into detail about the nutritional benefits of microgreens. I'm sure we could add it to the description just so people can read it for themselves. It's online library.weebly.com.
Okay. And then of course we'll put that in the show notes too. So I figured we could talk more about harvesting the microgreens a little bit later in the episode but you mentioned in the beginning that you chose to sell them like the actual tray the live microgreen instead of cut. Why is that and I guess what are some of the pros and cons of that method?
So the pros about selling a live microgreen plant would be like with any vegetable with any fruit, the moment you harvest it, it starts slowly losing its nutrients. With microgreens, they start losing their nutrients a lot quicker than the full grown plant. So that was one of the reasons why I wanted to sell it live. So people can have like a fresh, leafy green product that they can add to their plate. And I've gotten a lot of great compliments even even from chef saying that my microgreens have been the best microgreens they've tasted because they're harvesting them right from the plant itself.
That makes sense.
Yeah, some of the cons, though, was figuring out packaging. That was the hardest thing ever took me a good year and a half before I settled on this really nice packaging that I was able to find. It's basically like a plastic berry box that has a lid on it. And it just fits my microgreens just perfect.
Awesome. So you mentioned that the microgreens themselves tastes like their counterparts. So I'm assuming that that means that a micro green aratus radish micro green rather would taste like a full grown radish.
That is correct. So what seeds you can grow into a micro green are like basically any vegetable you can grow into a micro green, the only ones you really need to look out for are vegetables that may make you sick. For example, tomatoes, you can't eat the plant, but the fruit is okay to eat but the plant itself can get you sick. So it's those those type of plants that you want to stay away from when choosing what type of microgreens to grow. And then of course, the easiest types that I've noticed to grow are about peas, broccoli, kale, cabbages, turnips, radishes are really easy and radishes can be ready to eat in about seven days.
Wow, that's really fast.
Yeah, it's super fast. It's one of the fastest growing ones.
So how do you actually grow the microgreens? Because I know that I've seen some things like with sprouts, and I've sprouted things from my chickens, and that's just you know, you put it in a Mason jar and change the water out and that kind of thing. But you mentioned that you actually went to the garden store and got trays and soil and everything.
So with microgreens it's they're pretty easy to grow, you just need to have like a food safe container of some sort, it's really easy to start growing at home, you really need some equipment and planning. So the first thing you want to do is to plan where you will be growing your greens. I recommend growing indoors, the temperature of the space should be between 70 to 80 degrees with humidity no higher than 45%, which should be easy in Colorado, you probably would have issues of not having enough humidity here but I don't have that issue because my room is a little greenhouse now. You want to check your grow space and see if you have enough natural light. If not, then you may need to get a grow light. I use T8 LED lights, microgreens don't necessarily need a full spectrum grow light, but if you already own one, they will work just fine. The next thing you want to do is figure out what you want to grow in you can grow and just about anything as long as it's food safe. I found a lot of microgreens groups on Facebook and I've seen people grow in coffee mugs, a cartons, plastic plates, clam shells and takeout containers. The traditional garden trays are the easiest ones or like seedling starting trays because usually you can get a couple of them in the same size. Ideally, you want to have three containers of the same size. You want to have one with holes and two with no holes. If you are being creative and you're not using a garden tray, you can make your own holes in the in the container you just want to safely do it, don't stab yourself please. And then the next thing that you are going to want is grow medium. Me personally, I love cocoa coir. Cocoa coir is like peat moss, but instead of what it's made with coconut husks, it's really clean, it has great drainage, you could use potting soil, but it's not my top choice. The thing I don't like about it is that you get these large chunks in your grow medium, and that's not conducive growing space for your microgreens. And for a business perspective, I needed to have a soilless medium so chefs can keep my live microgreens in their prep space and harvest them as they needed them. Also potting soil will most likely have some type of compost in it, which isn't a bad thing if you're okay with compost being nearby your microgreens. So is there a reason that you wouldn't want to compost with your microgreens the problem with having compost nearby the microgreens is that you're already eating a young plant leaf. And if that compost hasn't fully broken down, there may still be pathogens in it and you don't want that translating into your your young crop like full grown plants. They are grown to their full adult stage. And so they've already built up those resistance to certain pathogens, where your young microgreens may not be able to fight off those pathogens and you don't want to eat those on your dinner plate really.
Gotcha. So then what about like fertilizing or other nutrients? Do you use anything like that?
I do. I use a light organic liquid fertilizer that I only use to buy have water my plants, so it's only in contact with the soil and the roots at the bottom. So just accept all that nutrients and adds more nutrients into the microgreens. It's not needed. I like adding it, I had noticed that it really changed the flavor to my greens when I added it. And when I didn't have it, it kind of gave them a little bit more of a strong flavor. So that's why I do it. But it's not necessary, you can still grow them without it.
So you mentioned that having the compost with your microgreens and that kind of pathogen potential. Is there any other safety hazards or safety concerns when growing microgreens?
It is really important where you get your seed you want to get your seeds from a reliable seed company one that has tested the seed for pathogens and has a 90% or more germination rate is preferred. The companies that I like to use are Truly Market, Mums, or Johnny's Seeds. I see especially a lot with people wanting to get cheap sunflower seeds, they'll use bird seed. And for sproutlings, you don't really want to do that. Farms that grow crops for seed have to follow certain standards of care versus farms that grow for bird seeds don't. For example, farms that grow alfalfa seed for sprouting, or for microgreens have had to change their grow and harvesting processes to make the seeds safer. Because what was happening is that either during the growing process or the harvesting process, the seed was getting contaminated with the compost on the ground, and then people were getting sick with E coli. So that's why it's really important that you get your seeds from reliable source. Also, you don't want to get like an EC, you want to get seeds with high germination rates, because you don't want to do all this hard work and then only have about 60% germination with the other 40% has started its process of going back to the earth, which means it's gonna mold. Also, there have been studies about sprout related foodborne illnesses, you will only see sprout related foodborne illness outbreaks, because they haven't really done too many studies with microgreens. But with each of the sprout related outbreaks, they have been able to link the main source of the pathogen to the seed. So just with that being said, I think it's better safe than sorry to get a reliable seed, then to try to go cheap.
Sure, that absolutely makes sense. I could imagine somebody trying to grow like chicken scratch or some wild bird food or something like that, which you mentioned, is treated completely different than human grade food. So that's probably not a good idea.
Yeah. So it's, it's real important to make sure you get good quality seed because you don't want to accidentally make your family sick or get yourself sick.
Absolutely. So I know that you mentioned that there's a large variety of seeds that can be grown into microgreens. But is there any of them that are better for the beginner?
Yes, the easiest ones to start with are radishes, peas, broccoli, and turnips I have learned are really easy to grow. And turnips are really nice. They actually kind of tastes like a non spicy radish, it's like they almost have like this romaine lettuce flavor. They're really good.
So is there like a size of tray that you would recommend growing? I don't know, not having experience with microgreens I don't know how much you use at one time or, you know with with harvesting. So is it better to do kind of a larger flat or multiple smaller flats,
it really depends on how much vegetables you like, I grow a whole large 10 by 20 flat, which is the standard garden tray you'll see like any garden store or garden center, that can be a lot of microgreens for maybe a family of three to eat if you're not big vegetable eaters, but I have a couple of my customers that are big salad vegetable eaters, and they can eat a whole tray by themselves, like in one week. And that surprises me. I still try to get most of my greens in but I'm still working on it. It's you know, my new year's resolution?
That sounds like a good one. Yeah.
Trying to get more greens than than anything else in my diet.
But yeah, it really depends on just how much greens you eat, you can get like a little micro green grow kits that that they sell on Amazon, they sell like small little kits. I also sell grow kits too. And micro kits come with the grow container you need. It's just a small little plastic container that's good for a little starter kit that people can like, you know, dabble with see if they want to put in the full investment of getting larger trays and things like that. Something that they that they can just try out and see like, "Hey, is this something I can enjoy growing?" My grow kits, they come with enough seed and grow medium to make five harvests. And my customers they get to choose from a list of seed that they can try to grow and they could just let me know they can customize their kit to what they want to try.
That's awesome. That sounds like a really great alternative for folks that might be wanting to try microgreens but don't necessarily live within your service area in Colorado. So speaking of harvesting, how do you actually go about it? Harvesting the micro green? And I I'm just assuming because they're a young plant that it's just kind of a single harvest and then that tray's expired?
Yes, yes. So, most microgreens they have a single harvest and basically you just want to grab a little handful of your your sprouts, gently and then just cut near the bottom. You can use scissors or knife, I recommend scissors if it's your first time trying to harvest them, it just makes it easier because if your knife isn't that sharp, you're going to have a bunch of bruised microgreens. If you don't eat them right away, they may start wilting on you faster than than if you cut them with sharp scissors or a sharp knife. So you just want to cut above the soil, give them a light rinsing and just add them to to whatever you're eating. Microgreens can be eaten with everything you just, the only rule with microgreens is you don't want to cook them, you want to eat them raw. Just like with anything else. When you eat a raw vegetable, you're getting a lot of its nutrients than if you were to cook it and it may lose some of its nutrients. But microgreens you can put them on your sandwiches, your salads, smoothies, you can add them to wraps, you can put them on your sushi, really the options are endless, you could take them, dehydrate them, ground them into a powder, add them to your smoothies, put them in a salad dressing, you can freeze them if you want to. Freezing them though, I would only recommend to eat them like to add them to a smoothie if you're going to eat them and you want to do it right away. Because then you don't want like soggy microgreens in your smoothie. It's not very appetizing.
So that I guess I just have to ask, since it's part of your New Year's resolution as well, what is your favorite way to eat microgreens?
You know, I love breakfast. I usually eat in the morning, a lot of the times I'll just throw them on top of however I make I'm making my eggs that morning. Most the time, I'll just toss them on top of my scrambled eggs. But a lot of the times I'll just throw the in my sandwiches. They're really good in the sandwich, I'll quite literally just make myself a microgreen salad. So I'll just cut a whole bunch of microgreens and just add them to the side of my plate and then just eat them with whatever I'm eating. I try to go for vegetables that would go with whatever I'm eating. So like if I'm making like Chicken Alfredo, I'll try to get some broccoli microgreens ready for it. So I could throw some broccoli microgreens on it. If I'm going to make some spring rolls, I'll try to get some cilantro or carrot microgreens or readies maybe some cabbages, some type basil. So it's just really depends on what I'm going to plan on making that week. But there's the like I said, the options are endless.
So for people that live in the Colorado area, can you tell us a little bit more about the business side of it and the microgreens that people can purchase from you?
Yes, of course, from me, I saw like I said before I sell my microgreens live. So you when you get home, you're taking home a live plant and you get to harvest it yourself and have the freshest microgreens. But we do offer a subscription service where we will come to your home and delivery a tray of microgreens to you. It basically comes in a little 10 by 10 gardening tray with your microgreens set in it. So it's really easy for you to water and all they have to do is just leave that on the counter in their kitchen or in a sunny window. And they can keep their greens for about a week, two weeks. I've had people keep them alive for a very long time. It just really depends on their if they can remember to water them really. But yes, I do deliveries. We do subscriptions, we are at the farmers markets when the season is open. I really enjoy going to farmers markets because I get to talk to people and and I get to educate them about microgreens. My first year, in 2019, not many people knew what micro greens were. But by the time 2020 rolled around, I think what happened was the pandemic, people were getting online and they were researching and they started finding out more about micro greens. And then we started building our business a lot more in 2020. And people actually knew what micro greens were. I want to contribute that I helped out a little bit in that because I did a lot of educating at the farmers markets on my first year. And then in 2020 I think it just really helped just getting all that information out and trying to educate as many people as I can.
Of course and unfortunately most of the listeners are not in Colorado Springs because we have listeners from all around the world. But you have your at home kits you mentioned. Can you tell us I guess your website and if there's any other resources if folks wanted to go the grow at home route?
Yes, so of course you can go to my website. I do offer my grow kits they start at $15 and like I said before you get enough to make five harvests. You can have seeds and grow medium to grow five separate times a month. I'm actually working on a time lapse video and like how to step guide to grow your microgreens so people can actually watch a video instead of trying to read my pamphlet and, or like trying to figure it out from the photos on the pamphlet, they can just watch the video. And they can always call me to my phone number they can call me they can message me on Facebook, Instagram, or just send me a text or call me. I am available to assist people that need help with getting their microgreen kits going or like trying to figure out "Should I put them in light yet? Do they need light? Should I keep them in the dark a little bit longer?" You know, I'm here for those kind of questions.
And well, that's really, that's really generous of you. I know that it's not always easy to to get help when you buy a new product.
Yeah, and especially when you're when you're planting stuff. I hear this question all the time. They're like, they look at my live microgreens so they're like, "I'm gonna kill them !" and like, "No, you won't. It's really easy. I will make it easy." I really do try to make it really easy for my customers to keep their microgreens alive, even if they do forget to water them a few days.
I think we've all been guilty of that.
Oh, I sure have been old.
Well, Pamela, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to share microgreens and more about your business with us. And thank you so much!
And for those listening, thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week!
For more from Backyard Bounty text, the word "Podcast" to 719-292-3207 or visit HeritageAcresMarket.com/podcast. See you again next week.
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