Remember chia pets? They were those animal-shaped planters that grew “fur” as the chia plants grew. Well, that cute little fad was actually a method of growing microgreens, even if it was a bit unconventional. It turns out that chia microgreens are very easy to grow and even better to eat. So let’s set aside the chia pet planter and grow chia microgreens as a crop!
You’ll be amazed by the health benefits of chia seeds. They have 3 times the amount of calcium in cow’s milk. They’re also a great source of protein, fiber, and iron. Perhaps what they’re most famous for is the amazing amount of omega 3 fatty acids, which aid in cardiovascular and mental health. The American diet is widely deprived of omega 3 fatty acids, so this is a great plant to start growing.
If you look online, you’ll notice that most guides are for sprouting chia seeds. In this article though, we’re focused on growing actual microgreens. The difference is that microgreens are grown in soil, given sunlight, and allowed to grow larger than sprouts. As a result, the harvest is considerably larger and contains chlorophyll – the uber-healthy nutrient that turns plants green.
If you haven’t already, brush up on the benefits of growing microgreens here. Now, let’s get started on this exciting, indoor gardening journey!
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Chia Microgreens Quick Info
|Flavor:||Tangy, slightly bitter|
|Ideal Harvest:||10-20 days|
Growing Chia Microgreens
The whole process, from soaking to the time to harvest, is remarkably short. Your tiny seeds will grow into healthful plants in just 1-2 weeks!
- Seeds: our favorites are these certified organic chia seeds from True Leaf Market.
- 2+ Seed-starting trays: they should be shallow without drainage holes, like these trays.
- Growing medium: seed-starting soil or coconut coir.
- Light: we recommend the Agrobrite T5 from our grow light guide.
- Spray bottle: something like this is great.
- Sharp kitchen scissors: either use a multipurpose pair of scissors or a set of pruning snips.
Before you start shopping, think about how big of a harvest you want. The chia microgreens are going to be packed in tightly, so the size of your tray will determine the yield. Chia seeds are tiny, so 1 Tablespoon should cover about 50 square inches.
For your growing medium, it’s important that it only contains fine grains, not large chunks of material. The chia microgreens are going to be so small that they’ll have a hard time navigating around uneven terrain. Seed-starting soil is designed for this. Coconut coir is also a great choice because it has the added benefit of excellent drainage.
For artificial sunlight in your indoor garden, you can use practically any grow light. We’ve had the best results with LEDs. Note that if the light is uneven on one side, the micro greens may grow in that direction.
Usually, when growing microgreens, we soak the seeds first. However, chia seeds absorb water so quickly that they turn into gelatinous goop, which is unnecessarily hard to plant. Skip this step when you grow chia microgreens.
This part is super important because planting microgreens is nothing like your typical garden planting. The first step is to pour a bit of water in the bottom of the growing tray. Then, fill in the soil just below the top of the tray. It will absorb the water from the bottom up.
Grab your seeds and spread them evenly across the tray, covering as much space as possible without overlapping them. There’s no need to cover the seeds with soil. Instead, grab your spray bottle and give them a good misting of water.
Keeping the seeds in the dark is the tough love they need to germinate and establish healthy roots. Place a second tray on top of the first to keep the seeds in the dark. For now, only remove this tray when you need to water the micro greens.
Maintaining your microgreens is just as important as planting. It’ll take about 4-7 days for the seeds to sprout. In the meantime, continue misting every day, just like you did the first time. Keep the cover on so the seeds aren’t exposed to direct sunlight.
After the seeds sprout and have started to grow leaves, you can remove the cover and turn on the grow light. The plants may be discolored from lack of chlorophyll, but the artificial sunlight will quickly fix this. Set your grow light to a timer that mimics night and day. Make sure to provide at least 12 hours of light daily.
Continue misting the plants, but make sure you don’t overdo it – there should never be pools of water on the soil. Now, your micro greens can start growing to their full potential!
In just a short 5-12 days later, the leaves will open. The micro greens should be about 1-3 inches tall at this point. They’re ready to harvest!
Grab your kitchen scissors and start snipping. Cut the micro greens in bunches, just above the soil level. It may be tempting to harvest the micro greens as you need them, but we don’t recommend it. As they mature, the taste will change, gradually turning bitter. For a uniform flavor profile, harvest them all at once.
The plants might regrow after harvesting, but there’s usually a huge drop in quality. Continue growing by clearing the old roots and planting more seeds in the tray.
Now that they’re harvested, you can eat your microgreens right away or store them. Just before eating, rinse them with cold water and lay them on paper towels to air dry. Add them raw to just about anything, from sandwiches to soups to salad.
Try to use the microgreens within the first 2-3 days of harvesting. However, they should stay good for at least 5 days using the correct storage method.
Chia microgreens store best when they’re slightly dried out. Plan ahead for this and stop watering them one day before harvesting. After harvesting, fold the micro greens in a dry paper towel and put them in a sealed bag in the fridge. Change out the towel as needed, since it will absorb any moisture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which is healthier, sprouts or microgreens?
A: Both have great health benefits, but microgreens win the race. They have a higher amount of nutrients as well as chlorophyll, which sprouts lack.
Q: Are microgreens a superfood?
A: If by superfood you mean chock-full of nutrients, then yes! Grow chia microgreens for an abundance of calcium, fiber, vitamins, and amino acids.