Sometimes new growers ask me about microgreen herbs. They want to know if it’s possible to grow basil, rosemary, oregano, or mint as microgreens, if the equipment is the same, and how long they take to grow.
Many are unsure what the term “micro herb” really means.
In this post, I’m going to break this all down clearly. We will go over what micro herbs are, how to grow them, what are the best kinds, and more.
What Are Micro Herbs?
The term “micro herbs” describes any type of herb that is grown as a microgreen.
While a traditionally grown herb usually grows for months before it’s harvested as an adult plant, a micro herb is only left to grow for a few days or weeks and is harvested as a seedling.
Nearly any herb can be grown as a micro herb. Popular choices include arugula, basil, cilantro, cress, dill, mint, and sorrel.
How are micro herbs different?
Micro herbs, like all microgreens, have higher concentrations of nutrients than their adult counterparts.
Regular basil has lots of calcium, vitamin K, and antioxidants. Micro basil has all of these things but packs more nutrition per gram.
One thing micro herbs lack compared to more developed herbs is fiber. Because they are young and delicate, they don’t have quite the same levels of fiber, but this makes them especially tender.
In terms of flavor, most micro herbs have slightly more flavor than older herbs.
For example, micro basil has the same powerful herbaceous kick with hints of citrus, pine, and anise, but with a stronger profile, more freshness and brightness, and less of a chemical aftertaste.
Ways to Use Micro Herbs
Micro herbs are incredibly flexible and can be used in a variety of ways.
One of the most popular things to do with micro herbs is to use them as a garnish.
Chefs in particular love them because they come in a variety of sizes and shapes, have vivid colors, and strong flavors.
Anywhere you would think to use a garnish of parsley, mint, or basil, you can use the micro herb version instead.
As someone who loves to cook, I find myself throwing micro herbs on almost all of my food. Just a sprinkle takes a meal to the next level.
Another simple and delicious way to use micro herbs is in salads. Not everyone thinks to put herbs in their salad, but they do a great job to break up the monotony of lettuce and dressing, adding a burst of flavor into each fork full.
Probably my favorite way to use micro herbs and microgreens, in general, is as a topping. You can use them in wraps, burgers, tacos, pizzas, sushi, and much, much more.
Try some micro arugula microgreens on a burger to cut through the savory flavor and add some spice, or sprinkle some micro basil on a slice of pizza.
Believe it or not, many people grow and consume micro herbs as a form of medicine.
Due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content, they are some of the healthiest plants in the world to eat.
To preserve micro herbs, many turn to drying them. By putting it in an herb dehydrator, a micro herb’s shelf life becomes significantly longer.
Instead of going bad in a week or two, dried micro herbs may go bad after one to three years.
Drying is great for those who grow more micro herbs than they can eat and don’t want to waste them. Just dry them up and put them in the pantry for a rainy day.
How do you grow micro herbs?
Micro herbs are very easy to grow. If you have experience with any microgreens you are ready to go—the process is the same.
One of the most common and effective ways of growing micro herbs is in 10×20 plastic microgreen trays.
You take a tray, fill it with potting soil you can find online or at any gardening store, and sprinkle microgreen seeds on top of the soil.
With daily waterings and just a bit of patience, you will be able to harvest and eat delicious micro herbs in no time.
How long do micro herbs take to grow?
Most micro herbs germinate in under a week and then grow for one to two weeks before harvesting.
Arugula has an incredibly short grow time, just about eight days from seed to plate.
Basil and mint are in the middle of the pack with average growth times of about twelve days.
On the slow end of the spectrum, thyme, sage, and parsley all take over 20 days to grow.
The growing time comes down to which plant and variety you choose to grow, but just know that compared to fully-grown plants, all micro herbs are incredibly quick and easy.
Most Popular Micro Herbs
Not all herbs are suitable candidates for microgreen growth. Some take too long to grow or involve complex processes, while others are incredibly fast and simple.
There are a few types of micro herbs in particular that are incredibly popular either because they are super easy to grow or just taste so darn delicious.
Here are the most popular options available with a bit of info on their appearance, flavor, and recommended uses.
Micro basil grows to be about five to seven centimeters in height with two to four bright green leaves on top and a pale green stem.
The cotyledons are spade-shaped with a smooth texture.
Micro basil seedlings are fragrant and crisp, with notes of citrus, pine, pepper, and anise.
The young leaves on basil microgreens have less of that harsh chemical-like taste that adult basil does and slightly more sweetness.
Some of the best ways to use micro basil are as a garnish for Italian dishes like pasta and pizza, as a topping for soups, or as an ingredient in cocktails like mojitos and martinis.
Cilantro microgreens look like tiny stalks of regular cilantro. The first leaves to sprout are long and blade-shaped, followed by the true leaves that are round with fraying around the edges.
Micro cilantro seedlings usually grow to be about five to seven centimeters tall before harvest.
In terms of flavor, micro cilantro is similar to adult cilantro. It is spicy and citrusy with a powerful fragrance.
Micro cilantro tastes a bit more like freshly cut grass (in a really good way) and doesn’t carry that soapy taste associated with regular cilantro. It’s less bitter too.
Micro cilantro plays an important role in many global cuisines. Indian, Thai, Mexican, and Mediterranean foods all famously use a lot of cilantro.
Micro cilantro doesn’t pair with everything but tastes great with chicken and fish and in salsas, rice dishes, curries, and more.
One of my favorite things to make with cilantro microgreens is chimichurri, an Argentine herb-oil topping.
To prepare, combine chopped garlic, parsley, and cilantro with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. You can add other ingredients like chiles and shallot too.
This mixture is great when spooned over steak or grilled chicken. See a recipe here (just replace the cilantro with micro cilantro.)
Dill microgreens look like blades of grass. When they are young, the bushy end leaves are still small and sit between two long blade-shaped leaves on top of a thin, delicate stem.
Young dill seedlings are light and feathery. When you bite into one raw, you get a burst of fresh grassy flavor followed by hints of citrus, anise, and carrot.
These are naturally sweet with a nice balanced flavor, not too strong, nor too passive.
As with most micro herbs, dill is great as a garnish, a topping for sandwiches and soups, and in salads.
In particular, dill shines in seafood dishes, with potatoes, with eggs, and of course, as a flavoring for pickles.
Micro chives are long, tapered tubes. They look like grass from afar, but up close you can see they are cylindrical. The leaves are needle-like and very delicate.
Chives are deliciously crunchy and juicy, with a balance of sweetness, saltiness, and spiciness.
While you can cut micro chives like adult ones, these are better-used whole. They are so thin and delicate that they make an eye-catching garnish.
One of the most popular uses is in scrambled eggs and omelets, in salads, as a garnish for sushi, and in soups and stews.
Mint seedlings, or micro mint, consist of two to four ovate bright green leaves attached to a pale green stem. These leaves are broad, flat, and smooth.
The flavor is similar to regular mint, with slightly more sweetness and herbaceousness.
The aroma hits first, followed by a burst of freshness, ending with a cool menthol aftertaste.
Micro mint is incredible in sweet foods, like as a garnish atop vanilla ice cream, cakes, fruits, or yogurt.
It’s also great in dips like hummus, onion, or ranch. Mint adds complexity to salads and freshness to soups and meat dishes.
Micro oregano grows somewhat short reddish stems topped with pale green spade-shaped leaves.
These microgreens pack a strong punch of fresh oregano flavor, which is a bit different from dried oregano. The stems are crisp and moist and the leaves delicate.
Micro oregano is slightly more substantial than some other micro herbs like basil or mint and as a result, can withstand a bit more heat in cooking and offers a satisfying crunch.
The flavor is peppery, sweet, and earth with a subtle mint-like aroma.
Just like adult oregano, micro oregano is a perfect match for tomato sauce, pizza, and Italian foods in general.
Almost any recipe you put garlic in would be good with a dash of micro oregano. It works well in meat marinades, sauces, soups, and stews.
When using micro oregano raw, a little goes a long way. You can try garnishing a nice piece of steak or white fish with a few sprigs.
When cooked, it does mellow out a bit, rendering a more balanced and slightly less pungent flavor.
Micro Herbs To Avoid
Rosemary just isn’t suitable for microgreen growing.
While it is possible to grow rosemary microgreens, they take such a long time to germinate and grow that the plants usually fall victim to mold or disease.
Even when you get everything right, it still takes such a long time from seed to harvest that it isn’t quite worth the trouble.
Wrapping It Up
Micro herbs are simple and quick to grow like any other type of microgreen. They are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants and pack incredible flavor in each tiny leaf.
These are some of my absolute favorite things to use as a garnish or topping because the aromas they offer are unparalleled.
A few pieces of micro basil or micro mint can transform a dish into an incredible sensory experience.
Whether you are a first-time grower or a microgreen veteran, you should definitely give micro herbs a try.