There is great irony in growing baby butter lettuce, as butter is the most fattening delicious taste sensation, while lettuce is a crunchy water-filled low-calorie vegetable.
Although perhaps not as decadent as a stick of butter, baby butter lettuce microgreens offer a tender, rich taste that makes great salads or accompaniments for sandwiches and other snacks. The irony continues because even though baby butter lettuce is already quite small, growing the microgreen version creates a veggie that is even smaller.
Microgreens can be created from a variety of plants, and the term microgreens simply means the plants are harvested before they grow to maturity; in other words, the tender shoots of the plants are harvested just as the seed leaves unfurl.
Microgreens and Hydroponics
Hydroponics, although an ancient process, melds wonderfully with the modern need people have for microgreens. From restaurant chefs to home chefs, microgreens are definitely a new trend. They are very expensive to buy and have a short shelf life.
Growing your own microgreens hydroponically is the perfect solution. Because of the quick germination and lack of messy soil that intertwines with the delicate microgreens, hydroponic gardening is the perfect way to grow baby butter lettuce microgreens.
The process is relatively quick and simple for microgreen growing, and you will not need much hydroponic gardening equipment to get started. The few items that are must-haves include:
- Coconut coir or biostrate mat
- Seed planting tray
- A bucket or reservoir for the water
- A nutrient-rich fertilizer
- A clean bottle to use for misting
Butter Lettuce Microgreens Basics
- Most Suitable Hydroponic Method: Tray method
- Best Grow Medium: Coconut Coir
- Time to Germinate: 1-3 days
- Time to Maturity: 8-12 days
- Optimal pH Range: 6.0-6.5
- EC Range (Nutrient Strength): Around 0.8
- Growing Difficulty: Easy
Microgreens are one of the easiest plants to grow hydroponically. The tray method is preferred since they germinate so quickly and need to maintain their dampness. Fill the bottom of the tray with water first, before you add a growing medium such as coconut coir.
The best way to keep microgreens moist is by bottom watering. To bottom water, sow seeds in a perforated tray (ya know, the ones with holes in the bottom). Fill the bottom of a solid tray with water, and place your perforated tray into the water-filled tray. This will allow the substrate to absorb water from the bottom. Overall this reduces the risks of mold or fungal growth sometimes associated with top watering.
After planting seeds liberally in the substrate, (around 2-3 tablespoons) you will need to cover the tray and put it in the dark. Check on the tray every 12 hours, and mist it to keep up the water level and humidity.
The seeds will sprout after 1-2 days but should still stay in the dark. After about four days of living in the dark, your seedlings are ready for the light. Do not be concerned if they appear yellow when you take the lid off. Light is what provides the photosynthesis that makes them turn green.
Although reports vary on microgreens, offering 14-18 hours of light a day will help your lettuce microgreens grow quickly. Fluorescent lights are fine. Keep the room between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and try to make it cooler at night. This will allow for the fastest microgreen maturation.
Harvesting Butter Lettuce Microgreens
Harvest time for microgreens is a very important time. The microgreens are ready when the seed leaves just start to open. These immature plants are tender and delicious.
Using gardening shears or scissors, give your greens a haircut by cutting parallel to the tray. Be extremely careful that you don’t cut off any substrate with your greens. Microgreens are not meant to be washed, and if you do wash them to get rid of the substrate, you risk a 30% reduction in shelf life for your greens.
Why Indoor Gardening is Awesome
Hydroponic gardens are very environmentally friendly for a few reasons. When growing hydroponically, as opposed to outside, you will not need to use toxic pesticides to ward off bugs. This ensures that your tiny, tender greens will be healthier for you to eat. Secondly, hydroponic gardens do not waste water. With traditional soil gardens, so much of the water runs off into the soil without even helping the plants.
Other Noteworthy Microgreens
Every microgreen was meant to have friends. The light green leaves with white shoots of baby butter lettuce will be a great accompaniment to other microgreens. And once you master the technique for lettuce, growing other types of microgreens will be very easy.
As far as microgreens go, radishes with their peppery crunch make great microgreens, and they only take about 5 days to grow. Kohlrabi is another microgreen that adds a depth of flavor as well as a pop of color. Swiss chard, pea shoots, arugula, and others would all be easy to grow in water, as well.
Although perhaps not as delicious as a real pat of butter, growing baby butter lettuce microgreens will still add a delicious tender crunch to your salads and sandwiches, as well as other dishes. Growing baby butter lettuce microgreens is much easier than it seems, and in just over a week you can be looking like a professional chef in your own kitchen.
There are many health benefits to eating leafy greens. They are a great part of a low-calorie diet and offer many vitamins and nutrients that you require on a daily basis. Baby butter lettuce adds nutrients such as calcium, fiber, and iron to your diet.
Additionally, baby butter lettuce is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to Vitamin A, and you can receive over 160% of your daily dose with just one serving of the lettuce. With only 20 calories, that is a very healthy deal! Vitamin A does more for your body’s health than you can believe!
It will protect your organs such as your heart and lungs. Besides keeping your organ systems working well, Vitamin A is good for keeping your reproductive organs on track, it aids in building your immunity, and helps with your vision.
The microgreen version of plants, although from the same seed, do not offer the exact same experience as the full lettuce does. Eating baby butter lettuce in microgreen form sets it apart from full-grown baby butter lettuce in two important ways.
First, the flavor is enhanced in the microgreen form, and the tender buttery goodness will offer you a pop of flavor. Secondly, the health benefits are more concentrated in microgreens.
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