Whether your microgreens will regrow after cutting depends on when you cut them. Most microgreens will regrow if at least two leaves remain on the plant. If you prefer to harvest your microgreens at the cotyledon stage (seed leaves), the plant won’t have any energy left to regrow, nor leaves to collect energy with. However, if you enjoy more mature microgreens, you can harvest all the true leaves, and leave the seed leaves to help the plant regrow.
In this article, I’ll cover how to recognize seed leaves and true leaves, how long it will take to harvest microgreens if you want them to regrow, and the safety of regrown microgreens. Get ready to start getting more out of your microgreen growing!
What are seed leaves?
Seed leaves, or cotyledons, are the first set of leaves that a plant produces. These are actually stored inside the seed, so they’ll come out whether the plant gets any light or not. The seed leaves also store some energy that help the plant grow its first true leaves.
Depending on the type of plant, the cotyledon may be specialized for nutrient storage (such as in beans), or for photosynthesis. In plants where the cotyledon is specialized for nutrient storage, the seed leaves may be very pale and thick and will often wither, wrinkle, and shrink in size as the plant grows more leaves. However, for plants where the cotyledon is not specialized in storing energy, the seed leaves will be green, and their photosynthesis will help the plant grow its next set of leaves.
What are true leaves?
True leaves are all the leaves that grow after the cotyledon leaves. True leaves on a young plant will have the same leaf shape as the leaves on an adult plant. True leaves are bigger than seed leaves, often darker and with more complex shape.
Many people prefer microgreens that are made of young true leaves, since these often have more flavor, fiber, and nutrition than the first set of seed leaves. However, they are not as tender.
How to tell the difference between seed leaves and true leaves?
One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between seed leaves and true leaves is to check on your plants’ growth daily. The seed leaves will be the first two leaves to emerge and often will have a different, simpler shape than the leaves of the adult plant.
After the seed leaves emerge, the next pair of leaves to emerge will be true leaves, as will all subsequent leaves. The true leaves will have the shape of the leaves in the adult plant.
How long should I grow microgreens for multiple harvests?
If you want to get multiple microgreens out of your planting, you should obviously wait to harvest until the microgreens have grown at least one pair of true leaves. This amount of time varies from species to species. For maximum output, you can grow them as long as 3-4 weeks before your first harvest.
If you don’t want to regrow your microgreens, you can harvest them just after their seed leaves emerge, just 6 or 7 days after planting. However, for more developed flavor, you can harvest after 1-2 weeks instead. You should determine what age you prefer and what works best with your plants.
Is it easy to regrow microgreens?
No. Unfortunately, it’s often much more difficult to harvest microgreens if you want to ensure a strong second harvest. While waiting until the plant is more developed helps it to store energy and regrow after harvesting, the best way to ensure regrowth is by leaving leaves on the plant.
Most microgreens are harvested by simply cutting the long stems, and this technique will make it much harder for the microgreens to bounce back, since it leaves them with only the energy stored in their roots. If you want it to be worth your while trying to get microgreens to regrow after your first harvest, you should really pick the true leaves by hand to ensure each plant has at least two leaves left. Because of this, most commercial microgreen farmers don’t bother with trying to regrow microgreens.
Do regrown microgreens taste good?
Yes, regrown microgreens taste good. If you like bold flavors in your microgreens, the true leaves of the plant will suit your style. The easiest way to regrow microgreens is to harvest just the true leaves, and these are the most flavorful form of the plant—often even more concentrated than the fully-grown form, and much more developed than the flavor of the cotyledon.
Is it safe to regrow microgreens?
In general, microgreens are much safer than sprouts because they are raised in well-lit, well-ventilated conditions that are not too damp. As long as your growing conditions are not too damp and dark, your microgreens should not become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
Still, all raw foods that come right out of the dirt can carry pathogens, so it’s best to wash your microgreens well and cook them if you are unsure of their safety.
Are regrown/second-harvest microgreens nutritious?
Yes, regrown microgreens are nutritious. Unlike sprouts, which get all of their nutrition from the seed, microgreens get nutrients from the soil they grow in, and they perform photosynthesis to create more plant matter. This means that microgreens generally have more fiber and more nutrients than sprouts, and second-growth microgreens are no different! All of what you’re consuming has come from the air, water, and soil.
What seeds can be used for regrowing microgreens?
Peas and legumes are popular seeds for regrowing microgreens, perhaps due to their thick, nutritious cotyledons. When you cut the true leaves, the cotyledon can help supplement the growth of more true leaves, making their regrowth a bit faster and easier than other types of seeds. However, the nutrition stored in the cotyledon will eventually run out, making it hard to keep regrowing microgreens indefinitely this way.
Other popular seeds for regrowing microgreens are herbs and greens like broccoli, kale, and arugula, where the flavor intensity is high and the final plant is a bit on the fibrous side. Microgreens of broccoli, kale, and arugula, are a pleasant way to get your bitter greens.
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.