How to keep your microgreen grow & harvest area clean — and why it’s important

Summary:

“Eat your greens” is advice we could all stand to take and to get the most bang for your nutritional buck, look no further than microgreens. Studies indicate that microgreens can be packed with anywhere from 4 to 40 times as many nutrients as their larger cousins, making them a nutritional powerhouse worthy of fitting into your diet. No space for a garden? No worries: These nutritionally dense mini greens can be grown quickly in even the smallest of spaces, such as your home kitchen.

Growing microgreens isn’t rocket science, but there are plenty of considerations to keep in mind when starting out. One of the most important things to keep in mind when starting out growing microgreens is that both your grow area and your harvest area must be kept extremely clean and sanitary. Here we’ll explain why cleanliness is so vital to growing healthy microgreens and offer some tips on how to keep your space hygienic.

Why It’s Important to Keep Your Microgreens Grow and Harvest Areas Clean

If you’re growing microgreens for personal use, the level of sanitation you use is frankly your own decision. There’s no health department to regulate the food you prepare in your own kitchen. However, like their relative’s sprouts, microgreens can pose a danger to your health if they’re not grown and harvested under the proper conditions.

Also, if you decide later on that you want to turn microgreens into a business and sell to the public, your cleanliness standards will need to be significantly stricter. In this case, your local governing body will have rules and regulations about sanitation that you’ll need to follow. The same thing goes for selling at a local farmer’s market, which typically will have rules of its own about safety and cleanliness. If you suspect you may eventually want to make a business out of growing microgreens, it’s best, to begin with, a high standard of cleanliness right off the bat — then you’re prepared for anything and can stave off any potential food safety disasters. Scaling up a microgreens operation becomes much easier when you have good systems in place from the get-go.

What Should I Use to Keep My Microgreens Grow and Harvest Areas Safe and Clean?

Opinions abound on what type of cleaning agents are best for microgreen operations. Ask a different person and you’ll get a different answer. However, peracetic acid or hydrogen peroxide seems to be two of the most popular options for sanitizing microgreens equipment. But don’t take our word for it: You’ll want to reach out to your municipal health department and inquire about their specific sanitation rules for microgreens operations. Requirements for what type of sanitizers can be used and how much you should use vary widely from city to county to state. While some areas might require you to use bleach for cleaning microgreens equipment, some others may simply specify the use of EPA-approved cleaners, giving you more options. So don’t just go by whatever you find on the internet; do the legwork to ensure you’re meeting the standards for your local area.

How to Keep Your Microgreens Grow Area Clean

Keeping the area where you’ll be growing your microgreens clean and sanitary is vital. Fail to keep your grow area clean and you’ll create an environment that’s welcoming to mold and other microorganisms, likely resulting in moldy microgreens. There are several steps you can and should take to combat mold growth when growing microgreens.

First, you’ll want to sterilize your seeds. Microgreens grown from contaminated seeds will be doomed from the start. To sterilize seeds, you can buy y a commercially made solution such as Tsunami 100. Don’t want to shell out the cash for a specialty product? Make your own sterilizing solution at home by adding four teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide and four teaspoons of vinegar to one quart of water; soak your seeds in the mixture for 10 minutes, then you’re good to go.

Secondly, make sure you’re using clean soil. This can be achieved by purchasing any reputable brand of organic potting soil from a nursery or garden store. (Don’t just grab a shovel full of dirt from your back yard!) Alternatively, you can grow your microgreens in an alternative growing medium such as vermiculite, or grow them hydroponically which requires no soil at all.

Third, you’ll want to ensure you’re growing microgreens under the proper conditions. The temperature of your growing area should be between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity below 60% and proper ventilation. This will ensure an environment that’s not conducive to mold.

Finally, between batches of microgreens, ensure that your growing trays are properly cleaned. There are many opinions on the best way to clean microgreen trays, but pressure washing is a good option, as is hosing them down with soapy water and allowing them to dry fully in sunlight.

How to Keep Your Microgreens Harvest Area Clean

Keeping your microgreens grow area clean is essential, but it’s just part of the equation. You’ll also want to ensure that you harvest your microgreens in a way that’s conscious of food safety and sanitation.

If grown, harvested, and handled properly, microgreens are safe to eat. But if grown from contaminated seed, grown under improper conditions, or cross-contaminated with animal products, microgreens can cause foodborne illness AKA food poisoning. However, there are plenty of precautions you can take to ensure that you won’t get sick from eating your homegrown microgreens.

First, always make sure that when it’s time to harvest, you do so with clean and sterilized equipment. Tools like scissors must be sterilized by wiping them down with rubbing alcohol, bleach, or another disinfectant.

Second, when you’re harvesting, be careful to avoid touching the microgreens with soil and make sure you’re not touching the soil with your harvesting tools. This will transfer microbes from the soil to your microgreens.

Next, once you’ve harvested a batch of microgreens, don’t think you can just immediately re-plant in the same trays. First, you’ll need to clean off any leftover soil or growing medium, then thoroughly wash, sanitize and dry your trays. Only then are you ready to move on to your next crop of microgreens.

Finally, make sure your work area is always kept clean and free of dust and dirt. Stick to wiping things clean with a paper towel and cleaning solution instead of vacuuming. Vacuuming creates dust in the air that can eventually settle onto your microgreens.

How to Handle Microgreens Post-Harvest

Once you’ve harvested your microgreens, you’ll want to wash them gently with clean running water and then allow them to dry before you eat them. A salad spinner works great for drying microgreens. And be sure to eat them quickly, as they generally only have a shelf life of three to five days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, these tiny nutrition powerhouses are so tasty, you probably won’t have any issue.

We hope you’ve found these tips on how to keep your microgreens grow and harvest areas clean and sanitary helpful. With a few precautions and the appropriate tools, you can grow delicious microgreens at home even if you don’t have much space.

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