GREENS|Difference between Sprouts, Microgreens, and Baby Greens| How to grow Microgreens

Hi all!

Are you like me who wants to include greens in your diet every day? It happens almost every time that I go to buy some veggies. After looking at those fresh, green or colorful, and crispy veggies I can’t control myself and then I end up buying more than I can finish. I think to myself that this time, I’m not going to waste any of them. I plan on cleaning them properly and storing them in the refrigerator so that I actually prepare them. By the time, I come home, my motivation level has gone a little bit down. When I come home and take the veggies out to clean, I already start feeling overwhelmed thinking about how long it is going to take to clean and store them. I end up cleaning up half of them and stash the rest inside the refrigerator. The first day I feel very proud for making healthy choices but then gradually my motivation level drops down each day as the vegetables start looking stale. So what’s the best way to have a continuous supply of fresh veggies at your fingertips?

Pea Microgreens Growing in Water Day 12

If you are like me then we are going to germinate some pea microgreens at home that too just in water. No fertilizers, no soil, and no hassle. And you get your first harvest of greens in less than two weeks. Isn’t it effortless gardening?

We are hearing a lot about the fancy term microgreens. What exactly are microgreens? Are they the same as sprouts? Or, are they different? If they are different than sprouts then are they the same as baby greens? Are they healthier than green? Are you getting these questions? Let’s find out more.

Why growing own microgreens is becoming more popular nowadays?

I don’t think this question needs any answering. During the lockdown, most of us have face food shortages especially the shortage of fresh food. Not all of us are gardeners or have the space, liking, or capacity to grow our own food. To grow microgreens we don’t need any special equipment. Just some seeds, clean water, a cooking pot, and a colander; and we are all set.

Let me share some interesting things with you. Did you know that there is more interest shown even by space researchers about growing such microgreens and fast-growing vegetables in space? They are working on this cool program named Vegetable Production System/Veggie.

The first growth test of crops in the Advanced Plant Habitat aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
The first growth test of crops in the Advanced Plant Habitat aboard the International Space Station Credit: NASA

Credits: NASA

The goal of the program is to supplement the fresh, edible supply of food in space to reduce the necessity of resupply. And most importantly, to provide astronauts with fresh and nutritious veggies because we all know that nothing beats fresh food. It tastes so much better than the packaged food and good for our health too. Isn’t it?

Then there is another program named Plant Habitat-02 (PH-02), which also is designed to grow fresh vegetables in the space. On November 30, 2020, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins harvested the first crop from this Advanced Plant Habitat (APH). It was the radishes that get ready for harvest just in a month. So, if we see in a few decades, space colonies with beautiful indoor gardens, I won’t be surprised.

Radishes Growing in Space Credit: NASA

Radishes Growing in Space

Now enough dreaming and let’s get back to our work.

Dry Peas Ready to Be Soaked

As we start growing our yellow-pea microgreens, I’ll explain the differences between the terms sprouts, microgreens, baby greens, and mature plants. I have taken a cup of yellow peas and washed them thoroughly at least 2–3 times. Then soak the peas in water for about 8–10 hours. The next day, drain out the water, wash them one more time, and then spread them on a colander or any tray with holes that will provide adequate air circulation. Then, keep a water-filled container under this colander to provide continuous moisture to growing roots. As the seeds germinate, they will grow towards the water and stay hydrated. You can cover this colander with a plate or a damp cloth. Generally, I use a plate so that everything stays clean but because the peas are harder compared to some other beans, I’m going to cover them up with a moist paper towel. and then put a lid on the top.

Day1- Starting Pea Microgreens

When you soak the seeds the first product that you get is sprouts. These are the growing roots. You can’t just cook the beans as they are. You need to soak them in water overnight. Soaking them makes the pulses easier to digest. Pulses contain many anti-nutritional factors that can negatively affect the absorption of nutrients so this processing is very important to get the best out of them. Sprouts get ready in just 2–3 days and you can add these sprouted beans to your salad or use them in different recipes. But what will happen if you cover them up from above? Then, the roots will grow longer and longer. The leaves cannot develop well because they are not getting the adequate light necessary for the formation of the new leaves. Here you can see my mung bean sprouts growing enormous roots. Just from the two cups of mung beans, I got a weeks’ supply of healthy salad sprouts.

Six days old Mung Bean sprouts
Six days old Mung Bean Sprouts

If you want to grow microgreens, you need to be a little more patient. Microgreens are young seedlings about 2–3 weeks old. Here are my pea microgreens growing in this colander.

Day 12- Pea Microgreens

They are just 12 days old and you can see the roots have already filled up the entire pot. I can continue growing these seedlings for another week. Their growth rate is increasing every day. Once they cross the three weeks mark the roots and stems become a little more fibrous and they lose value as microgreens. Even at this point, the roots are not going to be very delicate like they were when they were just sprouts.

3–4 weeks old Pea Seedlings. Harvesting shoots make the plants bushier and more productive.

Keeping them longer than 3 weeks will make them baby greens. I’m not sure if they can still continue to grow without any nutrition other than a grow light near them and water. Baby greens are young seedlings that are a few weeks old. That is when they produce young tender, small leaves. You must have seen baby spinach in salad mix. Once the roots and stems become fibrous, they are not much edible as they lose tenderness.

Pea Flowers
Mature Pea Plant Producing Pods
Pea Shoots

But you can still harvest the leaves. Pea leaves also taste good. I’m going to harvest these pea shoots and keep the roots in water to grow them again. Pea microgreens are known to grow back. I am curious to know how many times I can harvest the shoots. If you are not planning to regrow again then they can be a great addition to your compost bin.


This is day 12 and I’m harvesting some shoots. The roots are still not very hard but I want to keep them longer to grow back more shoots.

Are Microgreens More Nutritious Than Their Mature Counterparts?

Let’s see why this recent hype? What makes microgreens so glamorous?

Microgreens, in general, are compactly packed with a high concentration of many bioactive components like ascorbic acid, carotenoids, phylloquinone, and tocopherols all good things making them more nutritious. But not necessarily they are always better than the mature leaves. It depends on the variety of microgreens. For example, red cabbage, cilantro, garnet, amaranth, and green daikon radish microgreens are more nutritious than mature leaves. whereas, kale and mustard microgreens contain lesser nutrition compared to that you the mature plants. Then again the vegetables that are headed like broccoli and cauliflower microgreens contain more phytonutrients than their mature counterparts. Some of you might have heard about wheat barley microgreens. According to some studies, the concentration of one chemical carotenoid increases for the first to 7–10 days and then decreases after that. So overall, the nutritional value may change depending on the plant. But still, we get good nutrition from the microgreens at a very low cost.

There is one more thing that I would like to point out is that some researchers have noticed that the plants grown in water contain less chlorophyll, carotenoids, and some other phytonutrients than their more mature counterparts. Also, the type and amount of light they receive also affect the amount of ascorbic acid in the leaves. But rather than picking our brains on all these technical aspects, we can just enjoy this delicious food grown by us in only two weeks.

Different Growing Media

Now, I’m growing these peas in water. But you can use potting mix, coco-coir, peat moss, sand, or any other growing media that you prefer. I just found this quick and easy. But, I regularly grow some baby greens in pots/ compost bins outdoor too. Mostly fenugreek.

Problems in Growing Microgreens

Mung Bean Sprouts Crowded

The growing media has to be kept clean as much as possible to make growing microgreens successful. I changed the water every day. Used it for watering some other plants. The air circulation near this growing container has to be good to prevent gnats. It is better to use a wide container to have adequate spacing.

This is important because as the seeds germinate the sprouts start bulging and they can become crowded. Even here, I should have used fewer peas. You can see the seeds are all clumped together. Not all the seeds are able to reach the water below. Otherwise, there would be many more sprouts. The same thing happened with Mung bean sprouts and at one spot I saw some fungus developing. So air circulation plays a key role in the success. The sprouts also could get affected by bacterial infection if the seeds are infected. Actually, this is the main reason, why I like to grow my own microgreens rather than buying the store. I feel assured that I’m using clean water and also checking the sprouts and taking any bad ones out carefully.

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I’m a gardener for whom gardening is not just a hobby now but has become an integral part of my life. I would like to share with you all the beauty of gardening

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I’m a gardener for whom gardening is not just a hobby now but has become an integral part of my life. I would like to share with you all the beauty of gardening

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