Micro Herbs What are they ?
Micro herbs are just the seedlings of plants we would normally leave to grow to maturity, they are harvested early once they have produced their first set of true leaves. The seeds are sown as normal into compost and grown as any other seedling, but they are harvested just a week or so after germination when they’ve produced their first pair of true leaves after the seed leaves.
Micro herbs offer intense flavour and/or colour, the best herbs for this are Celery leaves, Chives, Coriander, Basil and Fennel, Parsley and Sorrel.
At micro stage they have a stronger flavour which is cleaner and packed with vitamins. They are a bit of a luxury as obviously you need a lot of seed to produce a serving and you get much less than if you leave them to fully grow but the flavour reward can be worth it. As a rule of thumb if the recipe uses a herb its micro version will add extra flavour and texture to the finished dish.
Growing micro herbs is easy, you can do it in your green house or indoors and can avoid pests and problems as they are harvested before anything gets a chance to take hold. Why not try growing your favourite herb in this way add them at the last minute to your cooking as their youth makes them delicate or top a salad with them.
Growing Micro Herbs
- Fill a seed tray or a piece of guttering with seed compost. As with any seed you do not need a great depth of soil or many nutrients as they will be harvested so early. Compact the compost gently.
- Sprinkle the seed on the surface evenly and reasonably close but not clumped together and push down gently with the flat of your hand so that the seed is in full contact with the the damp compost.
- Water using a watering can with a rose or a spray, to avoid washing the seeds into clumps. Water often but lightly. Give them light, but not necessarily full sun as they will tolerate a little shade and are going to be harvested so early. So grow them wherever you have space, on a windowsill in your kitchen for instance.
- In as little as a week the seeds should germinate and be ready quickly in the summer, but 10 days to 2 weeks in the colder months . Coriander is slower to germinate 10-14 days maybe 21 to harvest.
- To harvest pick the micro herb when they’re still tiny with seed leaf and first set of true leaves, pull them out of the soil, roots and all, and wash well before eating. Ideally, harvest them just before eating; if you have to store them, put them in a plastic bag, mist with water and place in the fridge for up to a day.
Best herbs to Grow as Micro varieties
Apium graveolens (Celery Leaf)
Celery seeds can be sown indoors from December to June under glass. Sow on the surface of a free draining, moist seed compost and cover with a fine sprinkling of vermiculite or compost. Place in a propagator or seal the container inside a polythene bag at a constant temperature of 15-18C (59-64F) until after germination which takes up to 21 days.
Allium tuberosum (Garlic Chives)
Sow 10-15 seed in a single line. Cover seed . Maintain 19'C. This plant does not grow seed leaves but comes up as a single shoot harvest when about an inch high , subtle onion flavour with a hit of garlic add to creamy mashed potato a quiche or egg dishes. They also make a great alternative to spring onions in a salad.
Coriandrum sativum 'Cilantro'( Coriander ) or Coriandrum sativum 'Confetti'( Coriander 'Confetti' )
Coriander can be difficult to germinate than other micro greens. You can try lightly crushing the seed and soaking overnight prior to planting to spped up germination can take up to 20 days but worth the wait! Use to provide a tasty garnish to finish Indian and Asian dishes especially good with lightly spiced Asian fish dishes
Ocimum basilicum (Sweet Basil ) or Ocimum basilicum purpurescens (Purple Basil)
Sweet basil will give you a concentrated version of its older version great as a garnish for canapes or try its cousin the purple basil great colour and flavour Try stirring either colour into pasta with a sauce just after cooking while its still hot or simply sprinkle a few leaves over the top as a garnish.
Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel)
Strong aniseed flavour eat it raw as a salad or garnish great as a garnish for chicken or fish dishes, spinkle over a panfried fish fillet to finish.
Petroselinum crispum (Flat Leaf Parsley)
Parsley seeds are notoriously slow to germinate, it may improve the success by placing the dry seeds in a small dish, and covering them with very warm (110°F/43°C) water, and let sit overnight. Pour off any seeds that float, and strain the others onto a paper towel. Plant straight away and keep moist until the seeds sprout, some also say to water newly-sown seeds with just-boiled water to help germination too. Parsley is the cooks favourite herb and the micro version is also great use with lemon and butter to garnish fresh fish dishes.
Rumex acetosa ( French Sorrel)
Another great herb for use with fish for its lemony twang. Also great in a salad .