Everyone’s had the unfortunate moment of opening their fridge to find their once crunchy greens soggy and inedible. Microgreens are especially susceptible to this, even when we harvest them ourselves.
What are the best ways to store microgreens after harvest? Even though microgreens are delicate, you can reap their nutritional benefits and flavors by refrigerating them at a consistent temperature and humidity level or dehydrating them after proper washing.
Once you know how to grow and store your microgreens, you’ll be able to incorporate them into your diet easily without having to constantly go to the store or farmer’s market. They’re simple to keep once you know the basics.
How do you grow microgreens?
Microgreens are easy to grow, even for people without a green thumb. You can grow them in your kitchen, even if you hardly have any counter space, or outside in your garden if you do have the room.
They don’t require a lot of materials either – just seeds, a container, and some soil will get you started. There are even kits that have everything you need, like this one on Amazon, from Window Garden.
Some of the most popular, but easy to grow microgreens are:
After you’ve gathered supplies, it’s as easy as sprinkling the seeds sparingly onto the soil and keeping that soil moist, but not overly so. Overwatered microgreens turn yellow, but all you have to do to put the ‘green’ back in ‘microgreens’ is to ease up on watering them.
Be mindful of the environment you put your pot in, too. You’ll get the best microgreens if you grow them in areas with a steady temperature, between seventy-seven and eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit, taking the heat from sunlight into account.
Different varieties of microgreens require different amounts of light, so be sure to give your plant just the right amount of exposure to the sun.
Microgreens typically take between seven to ten days to grow, while others take up to two or three weeks. You can grow large quantities at a time, hence the need for good storage solutions.
How Do You Prepare Them For Storage?
Once you’ve hand-selected the greens you’d like to pick, you can cut the green sections away using a chef’s knife, as shown in the video below, or with ceramic scissors. Ceramic scissors won’t have a chemical interaction with the microgreens, which prevents them from going brown too soon.
No matter how you choose to store them, make sure you wash them first. Even if it’s tempting to just grab one and nibble on it, you’ll likely get a mouth full of bacteria or soil if you do.
Unlike heartier greens, like collards or Swiss chard, you need to be careful with the water temperature you clean them in. Wash your microgreens in lukewarm, clean water as gently as you can. If the water is too hot or too cold, you could damage the greens and lower their nutritional value.
You can dry them by gently dabbing them with a paper towel or using a salad spinner to remove extra moisture. Excess moisture can turn microgreens mushy right away, so make sure they’re dry before you store them.
Don’t leave them out too long either – keeping them cool is key to making sure they stay fresh.
What Are The Best Ways to Store Microgreens?
So, you’ve grown your microgreens and harvested them. No matter how many recipes you have on deck, you’ll probably have some leftover. How can you best store them?
As we’ll get into, microgreens can spoil quickly, but when stored properly, they can last up to two whole weeks (or even longer in some cases.)
Here are the two best ways to store your microgreens to get the maximum life out of them:
- Refrigerating them in a plastic bag or container
- Dehydrating them
This method is simple and straightforward – once you’ve rinsed and dried your greens, put them in a container or a plastic Ziploc bag and put them in the fridge.
But don’t just throw them in and call it a day. Here are a few tips for refrigerating microgreens successfully:
Find the Perfect Humidity Level
Microgreens, like most vegetables, are vulnerable to rapid changes in humidity. To keep your microgreens fresh, make sure you put them in an environment that keeps their moisture level at a healthy medium.
Microgreens should be dry when you put them away, but you run the risk of letting them get too dry if you leave them out too long. You can also let them get too soggy if they’re sitting in water too long or if you didn’t take enough care during the drying process, which ruins them quickly.
To avoid letting them dry out while also keeping them just moist enough, put a damp paper towel into whatever container you choose with the microgreens. To avoid excessive moisture in a more humid environment, do the opposite – put a dry paper towel in the container to absorb extra water and change out the towel when it’s saturated.
Keep the container open just a crack to improve airflow inside, especially if you use a plastic Ziploc bag.
Even though you’re putting them in the fridge, be mindful of your kitchen or house’s overall humidity too. If you’re constantly opening and closing your fridge near your hot oven on a summer day, you might affect the longevity of your greens.
Choose the Best Container For Your Needs
But which container should you choose – a Ziploc or a Tupperware? Not all containers are equal when it comes to storing microgreens. As you know by now, moisture is the enemy of a microgreen’s freshness.
Some materials, like glass, collect condensation more easily, while plastic doesn’t. This blog compared how well microgreens age in various containers. All of them faired pretty well, but the greens in the glass container lessened in quality first because the glass was a wetter environment.
Plastic bags are a great way to store your greens and save space. However, they’re a little more finicky. Don’t seal the bag entirely, as to allow proper airflow, and use a paper towel to regulate the humidity inside the bag.
If you want to take your storage to the next level, you can even buy specialty bags that keep your greens fresh, like these reusable BPA free bags on Amazon. These bags absorb the gas that produce emits as they age and decompose, thus keeping them fresh longer. They can be used for other types of produce too.
Know Your Fridge
Just like your oven, your fridge has spots that are warmer or cooler than others. Have you ever put some vegetables inside, only to pull them out later, covered in ice chips? It’s always a pain, especially when you can’t thaw the vegetables properly and end up tossing them out.
You can avoid this with some experimentation. Take a look at what’s in your fridge now and gauge if any wonky spots are warmer or colder than others. Usually, the cool air vent is on the top, so avoid keeping your greens there.
If you want to find the perfect spot, you can log how long your greens fair in various parts of your fridge. Who knows – maybe your top shelf isn’t too cold for your greens, or perhaps the back left corner gets cold for some reason. A simple log can save you a lot of frustration.
Another smart way to know if your fridge’s temperature is accurate is to get a thermometer. They’re inexpensive, and they can give you peace of mind that your food is being kept at a safe temperature.
Keep your fridge between thirty-three and forty degrees Fahrenheit for optimal microgreen freshness.
Put The Right Amount into Your Container
There’s a Goldilocks zone for packing your microgreens. You don’t want there to be too much air in the container, which will make your greens oxidize, but you shouldn’t cram as many into your container as possible, either. Doing the latter will likely bruise your greens, or cause any excess moisture to stay trapped in your greens and make them rot.
Give your microgreens enough room to breathe, but not too much. The video below can give you a good idea of what a filled microgreen container should look like. He recommends plastic clamshell containers or plastic bags.
Bottom line: Most microgreen growers will be successful when storing their greens in the fridge; it’s simple and can keep them fresh and optimally nutritious for up to two weeks.
Dehydrating Your Microgreens
Dehydrating your microgreens is a great way to store your microgreens, and it can save you money in the long run too, depending on how you use them.
Dehydrated microgreens can be eaten as crunchy snacks, similar to kale chips, or ground into a powder to be used in smoothies, soups, or shakes. The latter is where dehydrating your greens can save you money in the long run.
Powdered greens supplements are a great way to increase your veggie intake and give you a lot of high-quality nutrients. The problem is that they can be expensive. If you’re able to dehydrate your greens, you can turn them into a much less expensive powder with the same nutritional punch.
You can also use them if you have a finicky eater in your household. While you might not be able to disguise a vibrant pile of microgreens, you can easily slip some into a soup for some added flavor and a lot of nutrients.
However, there are a lot of things to keep in mind before you attempt to dehydrate your microgreens:
You’ll Have to Dehydrate Them
This seems obvious, but you’ll need a tool to remove the moisture from your greens properly. Leaving them in the sun will only make them grow mold or mildew unless you live in a humid, dry environment with no insects.
If you already have a dehydrator at home, you’re set. But if you don’t, they can be pretty expensive – some models can cost up to three hundred dollars and can take up a lot of space in your kitchen. Additionally, you might not get a lot of use from it unless you want to dehydrate other kinds of foods.
If you’re willing to make that investment (or if you have already), read on to the next section. If you aren’t willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for an appliance you might not use often, you can also dehydrate your greens in the oven. It’s just as easy, though you’ll need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t toast too much.
While you’re buying a fridge thermometer to keep the greens you plan on eating in their original state fresh, pick up a oven thermometer as well. Oven temperatures can vary wildly, so a thermometer can help you keep a steady temperature while you dehydrate your greens.
They’ll Lose Some Nutritional Value
Dehydrated foods won’t spoil, but they will lose some of their nutrition. The heating and drying process lowers the levels of:
- Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- And more
Luckily, the losses are pretty minimal.
If you don’t want to miss out on a single ounce of nutrients that microgreens can bring you, you can mitigate the losses by keeping the temperature steady and low. Dehydrator appliances are your best bet for this – their temperatures can go lower than most standard ovens, which holds in nutrients better than a warmer oven.
How to Dehydrate Your Microgreens
This part is simple if you’re using a dehydrator. After you clean and dry them as detailed above, you just dehydrate them the way you would another fruit or vegetable. From there, you can keep them whole, grind them into a powder, or make them into flakes to sprinkle into soups.
If you’re using your oven, here’s what to do:
- Clean and dry your microgreens as detailed above
- Set your oven at its lowest temperature – ideally, 180*F, but anywhere below 200*F works
- Let it stay in the oven for six to ten hours, monitoring the microgreens from time to time
You can keep them in an airtight container like a glass jar after that without needing refrigeration. They can last up to five years before going bad!
Bottom line: Dehydrating microgreens is a good option for people who don’t mind processing their greens a little more at the outset or for people who want their greens to be extremely shelf-stable.
What Microgreens Stay Fresh the Longest?
A lot of what makes microgreens stay fresh longer is growing and storing them correctly, which you’ve learned how to do already. So then, picking a microgreen that lasts a long time essentially means growing some that fit your skill level.
If you’ve killed every plant you’ve ever had, you might not want to start with a more finicky microgreen, like flax. If you have no problem growing all sorts of plants, you can choose almost any kind you’d like.
More difficult microgreens to grow typically hold more moisture. For instance, chia microgreens form a gel when they come into contact with water. The easier ones have larger seeds, which make it easier to plant them, and can handle fluctuations in water and temperature more.
Here are a few common microgreens and how they taste, in order from easiest to most difficult to grow:
- Radish microgreens – spicy and peppery, like radishes
- Cabbage microgreens – mild and slightly sweet
- Spinach microgreens – mild, like their full-grown counterparts
- Amaranth microgreens – beet-like
- Chia microgreens – tangy and slightly bitter
Don’t let the difficulties of growing certain microgreens stop you from trying, especially if you like their flavor. With practice, you can grow any kind of microgreen with ease.
Can You Freeze Microgreens?
By now you’re probably wondering about freezing your microgreens. After all, freezing is an amazing way to preserve pretty much anything, from meat to other leafy green vegetables to legumes.
A lot of greens can be frozen successfully with a little processing, but microgreens aren’t one of them.
Of course, you can put them into your freezer – no one is going to come into your house block you from putting them in there — but the cold temperatures will break down and damage the cellular structures in the greens. Greens that have been frozen become slimy when thawed and lose their nutritional value in the process.
If you need to freeze your microgreens, use them frozen in smoothies to maintain their texture and as much nutrition as possible. To freeze your microgreens, do the following:
- Wash and dry them thoroughly, as detailed above
- Spread them on a flat sheet pan so they don’t stick to each other as they freeze
- Put them into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour
- Place them in an airtight container and store
You can even freeze your greens in an ice cube tray, using whatever liquid you use in your smoothies to fill up the compartments. That way, you can throw them in the blender with minimal fuss.
But again, microgreens are best eaten fresh from the fridge or dehydrated.
Once you know how to grow and store microgreens correctly, you can improve your health and broaden your culinary horizons with ease.