Teaching Children About Urban Farming With Microgreens in Singapore
Microgreens are fun and easy to grow in the classroom and at home. Requiring minimal supplies, space, and effort, microgreens let you and your students witness the miracle of seeds coming alive and growing into a delicious and nutritious snack in just a few days.
What are microgreens? They’re edible crops grown in soil or hydroponically and harvested when they are a few inches tall. Although leafy greens and herbs are among the most popular plants to grow as microgreens, other options include amaranth, radish, kale, broccoli, and even sunflower!
- Crops that germinate readily and grow quickly are the best candidates for microgreens.
- Microgreens are sometimes called “vegetable confetti,” a playful reference to the tiny leaves in a range of colours. A sprinkling of microgreens brightens any dish.
- Microgreens boast higher levels of nutrients per gram than their mature counterparts. Keep in mind, however, that it takes a very big bowlful of microgreens to equal the weight of a serving of broccoli or cabbage!
- Their short shelf life — as little as a week, depending on packaging, temperature, and other factors — makes them expensive to purchase at the supermarket.
- Growing microgreens in the classroom can pique children’s interest in eating more vegetables.
- Microgreens have the flavour of the mature plant — you can taste the radish in radish microgreens — and often that flavour is even more intense.
Microgreens vs. Sprouts
Growing your own alfalfa sprouts for salads and Mung bean sprouts for stir-fries used to be quite common, but the practice seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years. Sprouts differ from microgreens in that sprouts are grown without soil, and you eat the whole plant, including the root, shoot, and tiny leaves, if any.
Although you can purchase specialized apparatus, sprouts can be grown a glass jar covered with a piece of screen. The process is simple: Soak the seeds in water for several hours or overnight, and then drain the water from the jar, leaving the wet seeds behind. Rinse and drain daily, until the sprouts are ready to eat, usually in a few days to a week. The key to growing sprouts is cleanliness, because the conditions conducive to sprout growth — humidity and warmth — are also favourable to mould and bacterial growth.
Microgreens are a little more forgiving: Because they’re grown in open air, as opposed to the confines of a glass jar, humidity is lower, which all but eliminates the risk of bacteria or mould growth. This may account in part for their surging popularity.