November 14, 2020

Part 2 The No B.S. Guide to grow apartment food in 14 days (how to actually, reliably, enjoyably do it)

by christopherabdo

So in the last post of this series, I covered my wishlist: 

I want to grow food indoors,  but I want it to be: 

  1. Fast
  2. Easy
  3. Tasty
  4. Fresh
  5. Disability-Friendly
  6. Good or on the way to environmentally good .
  7. Actually productive
  8. Colorful
  9. Beautiful
  10. Not time consuming

A few more wishlist items I forgot about until now that I'll go ahead and add: 

  1. It should be a food that everyone at least knows about...ideally commonly eaten in 'Murica!
  2. It should have nutrition levels at or above what you could get at the store.
  3. Can be grown without fancy lights or tech. 
  4. Flavor variety
  5. It should actually HELP beginner outdoor gardeners with their outdoor garden

Well after a few years and several different experiments, I have found a way that works for me. Later, I'll have my sister Nancy as a volunteer in what it might look like for her. 

If you want all of those things in my wishlist above, then you'll want to give microgreens a try. Microgreens can do all of those things, but you'll have to be informed about the process...specifically all of my mistakes I made so that it doesn't take you years to nail down a system that works for you and your climate 😃 

What are microgreens? How are they different from sprouts? 

But what are microgreens? Understanding the definition isn't crucial to following my tutorial, but in case it's a mental block to following this's your long semantic detour...
I'm using the term microgreens because it's different from sprouts and people know that term better than Peter Burke's term "Soil Sprouts"...even though I think "Soil Sprouts" is more accurate.

but if you need to go down the semantic deep end before you plant some seeds, go for it! Here's more info from Peter Burke. 


Microgreens are not as fast as say, mung bean sprouts, but they are MUCH faster than just about everything else (think: tomatoes, or a full salad head indoors) 


Microgreens range from very easy to pretty tough. So if you know the right varieties to start with though, they can be easy to grow and wonderfully forgiving of blunders. 


WOW! That has been the biggest surprise ever! The flavor of a beet microgreen (although I wouldn't recommend this pre-madonna for beginners) is incredible. 

I don't like radish...unless it's a sprout. OMG radish sprouts are nowhere near as hot/bitter as the root can be and super duper fresh. 


I never realized how un-fresh, barely alive most of my food was...until I started eating greens that straight from the soil to the plate. Now if I go a week or two without microgreens, I feel like something is missing. 


Microgreens can be grown indoors or out, on a tabletop, with all of the supplies at arms reach. Imagine, for a moment, someone living on welfare, disabled in a wheelchair with diabetes. Imagine how their life would transform if they had a whole farm of microgreens in their living room, at arms reach, creating nutrition for themselves at the very least...a thriving microgreens business that changes their life and those around them. Wow. 

Good or on the way to environmentally good: 

Yeah that's the easiest one of this list. 

Actually productive

Yes, I can grow ALL of the salad and cooking greens for me and family, ALL year round, indoors. You of course have to work up to that level of production, but it can be done. I have a garden and balcony, so naturally I grow other things too, yet if I needed to grow exclusively indoors, it would just be a matter of starting some more trays. Easy. 


I love color, so that's always up there for me. Yes I'd say quite colorful indeed: 


Yup. Done. 

Not time consuming 

It takes me about 10-15 minutes to get the seeds soaking, then I come back a day later and plant them, which takes another 10-15min, then I eat them, which takes 10 seconds because I'm so excited. 

CAVEAT: to start this (and really any new project) it will likely be time consuming. You might wonder "is this really gonna be worth it?". 

What I want to stress that if you stick to it, you'll get a process that takes less time than going to the store, picking lettuce out, bringing it home, washing it, chopping it, putting it in the fridge, taking it out to see some of it has wilted/lost flavor what have you, then having to make a salad dressing so you can get it down. No thanks. I'm a free bird. I'll take my sprouts. 

It should be food everyone in America already knows about...

I found out early on that getting myself to like new foods  is a process. I want to skip that process for now, with you, so you're working on one challenge at a time. 

Microgreens can be as boring-american as you like or as fun and exotic as you dream. 

You could grow simple broccoli microgreens...or Perilla microgreens  that has a nutty/earthy flavor with a licorice, anise finish. 

 It should have nutrition levels at or above what you could get at the store. 

Would you like to eat twenty heads of broccoli right now? To be so full of broccoli you might explode?! 

-Yeah didn't think so. How about a handful of broccoli sprouts/microgreens? Well guess what: to get the nutritional power of the cancer-fighting would need to eat 20 heads of broccoli. No thanks. I'll take the microgreens that I can just throw in a salad. 

Can be grown without fancy lights to tech

Yes, you can grow this in a dark apartment. Now the less light you have, the less options you'll have...but honestly, start small. Let the inspiration and benefits buoy you slowly into buying lights...if and when you're ready Remember, all effort counts. 

Flavor variety...yup. 

Adzuki bean | Alfalfa | Amaranth | Anise | Arugula | Asparagus | Barley | Basil | Beet | Borage | Broccoli | Brussel sprouts | Buckwheat | Cabbage | Carrot | Cauliflower | Celery | Celosia | Chard | Chervil | Chia | Chickpea | Chicory | Chinese toon | Chives | Cilantro | Clover | Collard | Cress | Cucumber | Dandelion | Dill | Dun pea | Endive | Fava | Fennel | Fenugreek | Flax | Hemp | Kale | Kohlrabi | Komatsuna | Leek | Lemon Balm | Lemongrass | Lentil | Lettuce | Lovage | Mache | Magenta Spreen | Marigold | Marjoram | Mint | Millet | Mizuna | Mung Bean | Mustard | Nasturtium | Onion | Orach | Oregano | Parsley | Pea shoots | Popcorn | Pumpkin seed | Purslane | Quinoa | Radish | Rutabaga | Sage | Salad Burnet | Saltwort | Sambuca | Sea bean | Sesame | Shiso | Shungiku | Sorrel | Spinach | Sunflower | Tangerine | Tarragon | Tatsoi | Thyme | Turnip | Wasabi | Wheatgrass |

Actually helps beginner outdoor gardeners get better...

As I worked with microgreens...I started, naturally, getting better at growing little plants from seed. So then I started noticing why seeds I planted outside wouldn't survive...and started being able to fix those issues. So if you really want to be an outdoor gardener, this is phenomenal practice. I'm also able to affordably grow tons of little transplants for the outdoor garden plots, which makes up for all the trandplants getting killed off by bugs, rain, frost, heat, etc. 

So I'm curious...could you see yourself trying microgreens? Why or why not? 

P.S.: Despite all of these amazing benefits of microgreens, I can also explain several instances where it wouldn't make if I had a greenhouse full of fruits and veggies and colorful flowers already...I might have enough yumminess already to put microgreens aside...but I have a feeling I'll do microgreens for life. 


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