There’s something immensely satisfying about sunflower microgreens. They’re edible and truly delicious, no matter how they’re served. Growing your own food gives you a sense of accomplishment that can’t be matched, and microgreens are incredibly easy to grow. You can cultivate these in any sunny spot, including your kitchen countertop! Best of all, you can add them to almost any dish: they’re delightful in salads and sandwiches, added to smoothies, or used as soup garnishes. These superfoods are nutrient powerhouses, and perfect protein sources for vegetarian and vegan diets. Read on to learn how to grow your own.
Step 1: Soak Your Seeds
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When growing sunflower microgreens, make sure to buy truly high-quality seeds. The better your seeds, the healthier your plants will be. Many growers—myself included—recommend starting with organic, black oil sunflower seeds. They grow well and they produce very tasty greens.
Before you plant your seeds, you have to soak them in warm water. It’s best to use room-temperature water, so you may have to let your water bath sit out for a few hours to reach an optimal temperature. Make sure to cover the container so the water won’t evaporate during the process, and allow the seeds to soak for about 12 hours.
It’s recommended that you use a clear container for your seed-soaking endeavors. This way, you can keep an eye on your seeds and you won’t be tempted to uncover them and disturb them during this process.
Step 2: Rinse and Repeat
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Nope, these instructions aren’t just for shampoo. And in this case, you definitely want to follow the directions! After your seeds have soaked for 12 hours, drain them completely and rinse them thoroughly in clean water. Now, soak them again for another 12 hours. At the end of the second cycle, your seeds should already begin to sprout. You’ll notice little changes in the seeds, and you should see little green shoots beginning to pop out of their bottoms. If you don’t, repeat the entire process again by draining the water and soaking the seeds for yet another 12-hour cycle.
If your seeds still aren’t sprouting after three soaks, something is probably wrong. Start the entire process over again with new seeds and wait for those sprouts to appear. Most of the time, your sunflowers will sprout the way they’re supposed to, every so often you might get a bad batch of sterile seeds that just won’t germinate.
Step 3: Tend Your Seeds
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Fill a shallow plastic tray with seed-starting potting mix. A standard nursery tray with perforations on the bottom is ideal The sprouted seeds don’t need to be buried deeply. Sow them almost at the very top of the tray, and don’t worry about covering them with more potting mix. If you bury your seeds too deeply, they’re unlikely to grow.
Once the seeds are placed in the potting mix, cover the tray to block out any light. Make sure the cover has holes or slits cut into it to provide ventilation, but not light. The seeds need air, but at this point they shouldn’t be disturbed by light at all. If you need to, place the covered tray in a dark location to ensure that they remain in shadow.
In order to water your seeds, you’ll need to do so from below. Place the entire tray in a much larger one that’s filled with water. Let it sit for just a few minutes so water can soak into the soil through the drainage holes at the bottom of the tray. It goes without saying that it’s best to use a growing tray that isn’t too big or too heavy, because you will need to move it in order to water it. If you want to grow a lot of microgreens, use multiple trays to ensure you can water them easily.
One trick I learned is that sunflower microgreens don’t require any special equipment. If you don’t have nursery trays, you can always grow the greens in any shallow plastic container. You can even use a milk jug cut in half, if you like. Don’t be afraid to get creative, because some of the world’s best gardens are grown with the simplest tools.
Step 4: Watch and Wait
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Within just a few days, your seedlings should grow so enthusiastically, they’ll begin to push against the top of their tray cover. When this happens, you can remove the covering completely and allow your plants to be exposed to light. When you remove the cover, you should see visible growth among your little seedlings. At this point, place your tray under a grow light or near a window where the sprouts can receive plenty of natural light. If you see any seed coats stuck to your leaves, gently remove them with your fingers and discard them.
Keep watering your tray regularly: you may now do so in a more traditional way and water the soil from the top. The sprouts should grow rather quickly, and you should note some progress every day, or every other day. If your seedlings begin to look droopy and brown, they probably aren’t receiving enough light or water. The soil should never feel dry to the touch, so be sure to water it enough to keep it slightly moist, but not soaking wet.
Step 5: Harvest
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Once the sprouts have reached approximately four inches in height, you can start harvesting them. Use clean, sharp scissors to do this, and remove the shoots right at soil level with swift, clean snips. Don’t yank at them with your bare hands, as this damage the delicate leaves and stems.
Sunflower microgreens are very easy to grow indoors, and doing so allows you to enjoy them at any time of year. You don’t have to wait for the seasons to change or ideal weather conditions, when you can just take advantage of a sunny window or a grow light inside your temperature-controlled home. The seeds won’t produce new sprouts after being harvested, but you can simply repeat the entire process again to get new greens whenever you like.
Step 6: Storing the Sprouts
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You can eat your sunflower microgreens as soon as you’ve harvested them, but it’s a good idea to rinsethem thoroughly under cold water first to remove any dirt. I can assure you that soil will definitely affect the sprouts’ flavor! You can store these greens in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, as long as they’re packed in a sealed bag or container with no excess water inside. Ideally, you’d allow them to air-dry for an hour or so before putting them away.
Step 7: Eating Your Greens
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Oh yes, you can have your greens and eat them, too. I actually started growing and eating microgreens for their numerous health benefits. The greens’ delicious, nutty flavor is a bonus I didn’t even expect. Sunflower microgreens are naturally protein-rich. In fact, they’re comprised of 25 percent protein, which is a huge amount for any plant. They’re also a great source of Vitamin B, which naturally reduces stress. And honestly, is there anyone who doesn’t need a little stress-reduction? These sprouts have a great texture, and they’re really hearty, so they add both texture and flavor to any dish you add them to.
Obviously, sunflower microgreens are a great addition to salads. Mix them right in with lettuce and other veggies to add a protein and vitamin boost, as well as a whole lot of flavor. I discovered that they’re also great on sandwiches! They also taste delicious in egg dishes like omelettes, frittatas, and even egg salad. You can also snack on them by themselves, because they’re a tasty stand-alone treat.
As an extra bonus, you can share these sprouts with many different animal companions. Cats, dogs, and rabbits are a few species that love these greens. They add a lot of essential vitamins to your pets’ diets, and most animals love their flavor as much as humans do.
When I browsed online for recipes, I found that many people use these greens as an ingredient in healthy smoothies. If you’d like to try this out, experiment with different ingredient combinations. Try combining your sunflower sprouts with banana, mango, and almond milk, and blend until creamy.
These greens make a pretty and tasty garnish on soups, especially cold summer soups like gazpacho. Grab a pinch from the fridge, and sprinkle them on anything you plan to eat. Experiment with some of the many ways to eat your microgreens, and you’ll find there’s almost no limit to what you do with them, and the recipes you can add them to.