Learning how to harvest microgreens is the most rewarding part of growing them. Not only are they incredibly rich in nutrients and delicious, but their small size makes them easy to grow in a relatively short amount of time.
The simplest way to harvest microgreens is with scissors, micro-pruners, or a sharp knife. Hold a section of the greens you’re harvesting in one hand and cut about one inch above the soil line with the other. Consider using a cutting machine to save you lots of time for larger trays, as in commercial-scale growing.
Links on this page lead to products on Amazon, TrueLeafMarket, or other retailers. These links are affiliate links, and we may earn a commission when you purchase at no extra cost to you.
Thank you for supporting this site!
In this article, we’ll explore the many other ways to harvest your homegrown microgreens to retain their flavor and taste while avoiding damaging these delicate plants. I’ll also walk you through everything you need to know after harvesting, like washing, sanitizing, and storing these tiny greens correctly so you can enjoy them at their peak flavor and nutrition.
- Discover when to harvest your microgreens AND the 5 best tools to pick them with so you can ensure you’re reaping your greens at the peak of their flavor and freshness.
- Save valuable time by learning how to properly clean and sanitize your micro tools so you can wash, store, and extend the life of your harvested greens.
- Learn these 5 disadvantages of letting your microgreens grow too long AND why it may not be best to wait for your microgreens to regrow so you can focus on healthy, abundant yields throughout the year.
When Should You Harvest Microgreens
Microgreens are simply the baby version of their mature counterparts you’d typically plant in the backyard garden. Because most micros are ready for harvest in just a few short weeks, they only take a fraction of the time to grow before they are ready for harvesting. Microgreens and herbs are usually ripe for harvesting two to four weeks after planting. However, depending on your growing variety, some take a bit longer to reach maturity.
The best way to tell if your microgreens are ready for harvest is by looking at their size and determining which leaves have sprouted on these tiny plants. Microgreens can usually be harvested when about 2-4 inches tall and have developed their first set of seed leaves, called cotyledons. You can also allow your greens to grow for a few extra days and harvest them just after sprouting their second set of leaves, known as true leaves. 1
5 Ways To Harvest Microgreens
You can use several methods to harvest microgreens, including:
- A Sharp Knife
- Barbers Razor
- Electric Knife
- Mini Electric Hedge And Shrub Trimmer
Let’s look at each to help you determine which harvesting technique is proper for you.
For small-scale growers, a pair of scissors is all that’s needed to harvest your microgreens. Scissors are cost-effective, allowing you to cut the greens just above the soil.
The best way to use scissors when harvesting microgreens, or any harvesting device, is to ensure they are sharp. Because microgreens are young, they are also delicate, and without a sharp instrument, these plants are easily damaged by accidental pulling or tearing. To protect your young plants, gently hold a clump of greens in one hand while you snip off the stem one inch above the soil line with scissors.
Although using scissors to harvest small sections of your crop ensures the least waste, it takes time. For commercial growers, scissors won’t be practical if you grow microgreens at scale. Therefore, discussed below are some better options for larger-scale operations.
A Sharp Knife
Whether you use a knife, micro pruner, or scissors depends entirely on your preference. You can use a sharp knife to harvest your microgreens in a similar way to using scissors. Use the same method of holding the section of greens you are harvesting with one hand while slicing through the exposed stems with the knife in the other.
Remember, if you choose to harvest your crop with a knife, you must ensure the cutting edge is and remains sharp. Also, be aware of the increased risk of injury, exhibit caution, and use suitable protective gear. 2
Another helpful tool in harvesting microgreen crops is a barbers razor, also known as a straight razor. A barber’s razor is a step up from a knife due to its razor-sharp edge and is the same kind you’d likely see old-time barber shops use to service and shave their male patrons.
Harvesting your plants with a barber’s razor in the same way you use a knife or scissors would be best. Although it may take some practice initially, once you become accustomed to the cut, you should find it much easier and quicker. Still, take proper safety precautions throughout the harvesting process.
Using the tools mentioned thus far is best to gain experience and confidence when starting with microgreens. Next, let’s talk about electric tools that will speed up harvesting and are perfect for more extensive operations.
Electric knives are low-cost and commonly used in the home for cutting loaves of bread or joints of meat. Their sawing edge will easily slice through delicate microgreens in a single pass.
The best way to use an electric knife for microgreen harvesting is to use the top of the growing tray to guide the blade. Provided your soil level is lower than the top of the tray, this technique will give you a clean cut just above the soil line.
For safety, secure the microgreen tray or container before cutting so you only need one hand to guide your electric knife over the harvested greens. Also, move from side to side. Don’t cut towards you, and keep your other hand away from the cutting blade.
Mini Electric Hedge And Shrub Trimmer
Mini hedge trimmers are more expensive than electric knives but much safer. Using a hedge trimmer for harvesting microgreen crops may sound a little clumsy, but you will be surprised at how good they are.
Most trimmers have interchangeable heads, such as fork tips or longer traditional saw-like edges. Mini hedge trimmers are a perfect size, making it easy to harvest large microgreen crops, especially wheatgrass, in record time. Again, when cutting, be careful your plants are not pulled, tugged, or torn to avoid unnecessary damage. You’re looking for a clean cut with a clean break from the stems.
To give you a better overview of using these tools, I found this excellent video which discusses the complete microgreen harvesting process.
Cleaning Up After Harvesting
Cleaning up a microgreen crop is another essential part of the harvesting process. You’ll need to remove any remaining seeds, seed shells, and other debris from the harvested clippings before consuming or bagging them appropriately for storage.
It’s also wise to give your greens a thorough rinse. The washing process will help remove most of the seed shells and other debris, which I will cover next. However, some microgreens, such as sunflowers, can retain their seed hulls atop the top of the plant.
Therefore, the best way to remove this type of unneeded debris is to roughly run your hand over the top canopy of your microgreens to dislodge these hulls before harvesting them. Once complete, harvest your crop and prep for washing. 3
How To Wash Microgreens
Now that you’ve harvested your microgreens and cleaned away the debris, it’s time to prepare them. Washing your greens is an essential step before consuming and storing them. You’ll also want to ensure all cleaning tools and containers are properly sanitized to prevent contamination from bacteria. For this, combine one teaspoon of 3% food-grade hydrogen peroxide mixed with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and gently mist over your trays and tools.
If you have a small number of cuttings after harvesting, you can place them in a colander and rinse them under running water. You may also fill a bowl and lower the colander to submerge the microgreens fully while swirling them around with your hands. After 5-10 minutes, lift the colander from the water and allow your greens to drain and air dry. 4
If you have lots of any microgreens to wash, use a large container (100-200 liters). Fill the container with water and leave your microgreens to soak for 10-15 minutes. During this soaking stage, you may notice any remaining seed shells and debris floating at the surface, where you can use your hand or a sieve to remove them quickly. Then, use a colander to scoop the microgreen leaves from your container and leave them to dry.
Drying your microgreens is a critical part of the preparation, as soggy microgreens may attract mold and other harmful diseases. Additionally, carefully drying your microgreens can increase their shelf life from several days to a week or more.
After washing, the best way to dry your microgreens is to gently spread them thinly over a table so air can circulate around them. Consider laying some paper towels underneath your greens to dry from beneath. You can let your plants air dry naturally or use a cool fan on a low setting to improve drying time.
If you have a significant number of micros to dry, use a netted table so that air can circulate from above and below. Toss the microgreens by hand to ensure even drying. Once dry, you must package your microgreens for storage before they begin to dry out.
How To Store Microgreens
Storing microgreens is an essential step in preserving their freshness and flavor. It’s important to keep them at the right temperature and humidity level and away from light so they stay as crisp and flavorful as possible. To ensure your microgreens last longer, follow these steps:
Make sure to remove excess water. To remove this surplus water, gently pat the greens dry with a paper towel or cheesecloth. This action will help reduce moisture that could cause molding or discoloration.
Store them in an airtight container. Good storage options include a sealable polythene bag or a mason jar lined with a damp cloth or paper towels on the bottom. Consider labeling the containers with the harvest date and the type of microgreen it contains. Ensure there’s not too much moisture in the container, which can cause unnecessary challenges such as increased humidity and rot. 5
Place the sealed containers in a refrigerated unit. Microgreens can stay good in a cool environment, like a refrigerator, for up to two weeks before being consumed, allowing plenty of time to enjoy freshly harvested microgreens.
What Happens If You Let Microgreens Keep Growing
Microgreens are baby versions of their full-grown counterparts in the backyard garden and what your greens would become if you allow them to grow beyond the microgreen stage. Although there are several benefits to harvesting microgreens before they become adult plants, such as their vastly increased nutrient content, here is a list of what to expect if you let your microgreens keep growing.
- Reduced nutrient density. As microgreens mature, their nutrient content decreases slightly due to increased cellular respiration.
- Declining taste. Microgreens become increasingly bitter as they age, so those who want milder flavors may prefer harvesting them earlier.
- Diminished color. Aged microgreens tend to lose their vibrant colors over time.
- Different textures. Older leaves become tougher and chewier compared to younger ones that are tender and succulent.
- Shrinking space. Mature plants require more room than young ones.
To maximize flavor and nutrition while considering space limitations, most gardeners recommend harvesting microgreens between 1-2 weeks after germination when the cotyledon leaves fully develop and before the next set of leaves, called true leaves, start appearing. 6
Although allowing some varieties to reach maturity can produce interesting results, it’s important to remember that each plant grows uniquely differently depending on its type. It’s best to ensure you research thoroughly beforehand. 7
From here, let’s explore whether microgreens grow back after cutting and how this affects the overall harvest process.
Do Microgreens Grow Back After Cutting
Although some microgreens, like wheatgrass, are known for regrowth, many greens don’t grow back as their leaves, which spawn energy production via photosynthesis, are harvested. However, you may increase your chances of regrowth if you leave at least 1 inch or more of the stem along with the plants’ first leaves (cotyledons).
The table below shows where to cut microgreens at each stage and their regrowth potential.
|Plant||Growth Cycle||How To Cut|
|Sprouted Seeds (1-3 days old)||Not Resilient: Cannot be harvested multiple times||Snip off seed leaves just above the growing media|
|Baby Greens (4-7 days old)||Somewhat Resilient: Can regrow if done correctly||Cut stems 1/2 inch from the soil with scissors or a knife|
|Microgreens (8-14 days old)||Highly Resilient: Can be harvested multiple times||Trim stems at the base, leaving a small stubble about 1 inch long for new growth|
Although microgreens can regrow, most people don’t waste their time as each successive crop typically exhibits spotty growth, at best, and contains fewer nutrients and less taste.
Allowing microgreens to resprout often takes much longer, and they rarely grow as tall as when using fresh seeds. Setting up a new tray with a brand-new crop makes better use of your time and effort.
Where thorough cooking usually removes these dangerous bacteria, microgreens are best eaten raw to benefit from their many nutrients. So, starting fresh with clean trays, seeds, and growing media is best after each harvest.
I’ve found that growing microgreens is incredibly rewarding. With a suitable growing medium and fertilizer, your tiny plants can be harvested in just a few weeks. The key is to water them regularly while monitoring their progress daily. And the best part is when they reach the desired size, it’s time to harvest and enjoy!
Harvesting microgreens shouldn’t be complicated. Most greens can be picked when they are 2 to 4 inches tall and have developed their first cotyledon leaves. Harvest your fresh micro crops with sharp scissors, micro-pruners, or razors for smaller operations to prevent unnecessary damage to your delicate plants.
Proper hygiene practices should also be followed throughout the entire harvesting process. Removing any debris from your plants, like seed hulls, is essential. Likewise, thoroughly washing your plants is vital, as is sanitizing your tools, container trays, and work area to avoid contamination in successive plantings. Lastly, to better preserve your micros and help retain flavor, remove excess water and store them in a cool, dark place, like your refrigerator, at a consistent temperature.
Growing microgreens is a rewarding practice offering you and your family tasty and nutritious greens year-round. Anyone can grow beautiful microgreens from seed with patience and effort.
How do you harvest and store your homegrown greens for maximum flavor? Let us know by dropping a comment below and spill!