leafy aspirations 2
Image: John Valls

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Harvest the Greens

Harvest size is up to you: Snip the leaves at the microgreens stage (one to two inches tall, usually 14 to 21 days from sowing) or let them bulk up a bit for a baby greens salad (two to six inches tall, 21 to 42 days from sowing). These numbers are only estimates, though, given that there appear to be no industry rules regarding leaf size. Different types of greens grow at different rates, and soil and air temperature can affect the plants’ speed of growth appreciably. Begin with an experimental frame of mind and you won’t be disappointed.

There are two main techniques for harvest: Pick individual leaves as needed, or use the traditional cut-and-come-again method, in which you hold the plant tops with one hand while snipping the baby leaves off one or two inches from the base (have a bowl handy). If using this method, either turn the plants under after harvest and start anew, or lightly fertilize the plants with a fast-acting, organic nitrogen fertilizer and allow them to resprout once, or perhaps twice, more. Keep in mind, the cut-and-come-again method works only on plants that have established root systems and a crown. Spindly seedlings will not survive this technique; microgreens are a one-shot affair.

Planted in blocks, mixed baby greens generally yield approximately one pound per five to eight square feet of garden, depending on their size at harvest. And as with any produce, they taste best and contain the most nutrients when freshly picked.

Handling the Bounty

Handle your baby greens delicately; they bruise easily. Wash them by swishing the leaves briefly in cool or cold water. If you don’t have a salad spinner, try using a clean, zippered lingerie bag (used exclusively for salad-drying). Step outside and swing the greens around to eliminate all moisture. Washed, dried and cooled, baby greens will keep for five to seven days in the refrigerator. When properly grown and cared for, these tiny leaves will provide you with the most tender and nutritious salad available—homegrown greens at their best.