It is essential to harvest microgreens in time. Your microgreens will be ready to harvest two to three weeks after planting, depending on the variety of seeds you choose and harvesters can help make the job easier. Many are harvested as soon as the cotyledons form, and the first genuine leaves appear.
Ideally, after 7 to 14 days of germination, microgreens are harvested. If harvesting microgreens gets delayed, the microgreens become bitter and harsh. If you harvest them early before they are ready, the yield of microgreens will be lesser.
How to Harvest Microgreens in a Simple Way
Time: The right time for harvesting is when humidity is low.
Method: Microgreens harvesting is done simply by cutting off the microgreens above the soil with scissors or a knife or harvester. After that, any seeds or debris are removed with a brush.
Steps: Hold the bunches with one hand and cut microgreens with the harvester. Cut from the sides or edge of the tray using clean cuts. It is important to begin cutting from the edge due to microorganisms. These microbes, like fungi and bacteria, begin to attack crops from the cut ends.
Identifying When to Harvest The Microgreens
Harvesting, once the first true leaves appear, is the general thumb rule. The research titled “Microgreens: a newly merging product, aspects, prospectives, and disadvantages” was published in the Research Gate in June 2021. In general, when microgreens age, they grow tough and more fibrous.
Another study titled “Germination, harvesting stage, antioxidant activity and consumer acceptance of ten microgreens” was published in the Ceylon Journal of Science 2019. The study revealed seedling height and leaf area could be used as a harvesting index.
Removing Microgreen Seed Hulls During Harvesting
Moisture and timing issues can cause a lot of problems with seed hulls. Seed hulls are the outer shell or external coat of the seed. Seed hulls are troublesome for sunflower, chard, radish, cilantro, fennel, fenugreek, and spinach microgreens.
Shaking the substrate vigorously can help get rid of the hulls, according to the study titled “Evaluating the yield of Helianthus annuus microgreens when treated with sodium hypochlorite and other factors,” published in the Journal Of Student Scientists’ Research in 2019.
What Parts of the Microgreens Should You Harvest and Eat?
Only the plant of the microgreens that is above the soil should be consumed. The roots, seeds, and hull are not edible. However, microgreen Brassicas and plants belonging to this family produce edible cotyledons. Cotyledons are the first leaves that appear as the seed unfolds.
For harvesting microgreens, many cultivators choose one of two methods. Either they take a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. For the mechanical harvesters, food-safe oil is used to grease the friction areas. Microgreens can be harvested in a variety of methods on a budget.
Below are the simple and commonly used harvesters.
For microgreen harvesting, use incredibly sharp scissors. Avoid using dull scissors and replace them with some that have a sharp edge. The main reason for this is that using a dull-edged scissor will crush the stems, hastening the degradation process.
A knife or mechanical harvester is useful for a large number of microgreen trays as scissors cause hand cramps over time, result in longer harvest times, and are more difficult to clean, disinfect, and sharpen when they become dull.
Many microgreen cultivators prefer the simplicity of a sharpened knife that glides effortlessly through the Microgreens. In addition, harvesting with a sharp knife is gentler on the hands and wrists in the long run, especially while harvesting a few trays. Sharp knives cut cleanly and don’t squeeze water-conducting plant vessels as scissors do.
The chemicals in the microgreens stem do not react with a ceramic knife. As a result, the plant stem is less likely to oxidize and discolor at the cut end. Knives are simple to use and far easier to clean, sharpen, and disinfect than scissors. The only drawback is that you have to be careful not to cut yourself.
Electric hedge trimmers
To speed up harvesting, try electric hedge trimmers. When compared to scissors or knives, this will save you a lot of time.
Electric trimmers are simple to use but are constrained by the length of the cord. Cordless models provide more flexibility and need a charged battery to function. The most powerful hedge trimmers are petrol hedge trimmers. However, these require constant maintenance.
To avoid having a dull and grabby blade on your next harvest day, always clean and disinfect the tools after harvesting and sharpen the blade every 2 to 3 harvests. Use a good sharpener for sharpening your knife.
Equipment for Microgreen Harvesting
You’ll be spending more and more time picking microgreens as your operation grows to a commercial scale, and all that labor might eat into profits. There will come a time when investing in specialist harvesting equipment makes sense. Below are the two best alternatives:
Hand-held microgreens harvester
Hand-held microgreens harvesters are revolutionary products that need a cordless drill. The hand-held microgreen harvester pulls the leaves gently into the blades and then chucks them into the basket back.
In addition, it makes the surface neat and clean, which is ideal for a second harvest. Moreover, it is suitable for any crop of any size and provides easy cleaning of the crop.
Greens harvester (floor mounted)
This kind of harvester is needed if you’re dealing with thousands of trays per day. This harvester can harvest up to 400 flats every hour, while you can harvest around 30 trays per hour by hand. So you’re harvesting at a rate of more than 13 times faster. That implies a 12-hours of harvesting can be reduced to under an hour.
Benefits of Using Harvesters
Here are some reasons why you should use harvesters:
- The equipment can harvest a tray in seconds, saving ninety percent of harvest time. Custom harvesting machines are available that fit a variety of tray sizes.
- The microgreens harvester is ergonomically friendly and most efficient.
- The trays are placed on an infeed conveyor belt, and the microgreens are sorted onto an incline conveyor belt as they are harvested. The greens are then placed in a basket and carried to the next step.
- Aside from the labor savings, the machine’s unique qualities include handling delicate microgreens.
- The blades do not damage the greens, and they will all be the same height. Microgreen crops never come into contact with earth or human hands. There will be no dirt on it.
- Because the microgreen harvester cuts gently and cleanly, there is no damage to the microgreens. It has the ability to cut even the tiniest microgreens without any waste.
- In addition, some firms are developing other devices for the industry, like tray washers that can take harvesting to the next level.
The microgreens harvesters are made for harvesting a range of micro and baby greens and grasses faster and easier. Because of its capacity to provide a fast, clean-cut and allow your product to go to the next stage faster, the harvesters ensure that your harvest stays fresh and vivid.
If you want something to last longer, you need to put in the effort towards its maintenance. Ensure to take care of the preferred harvester once you’ve chosen it and reap healthy microgreens.
Andrews, Z., Fateh, E., Shaver, E., Lee, F., Hernandez, A., Rivera, M., & Nolan, D. (2019). Evaluating the yield of Helianthus annuus microgreens when treated with sodium hypochlorite and other factors. Journal of Student-Scientists’ Research, 1. https://doi.org/10.13021/JSSR2019.2665
Berba, K. J., & Uchanski, M. E. (n.d.). Post-harvest physiology of microgreens. Jyi.Org. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://www.jyi.org/s/JYI-Volume-24-Issue-1-Berba-Kenneth-_Post-harvest-physiology-of-microgreens-2.pdf
Kyriacou, M. C., Rouphael, Y., Di Gioia, F., Kyratzis, A., Serio, F., Renna, M., De Pascale, S., & Santamaria, P. (2016). Micro-scale vegetable production and the rise of microgreens. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 57, 103–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2016.09.005
Liu, Z., Shi, J., Wan, J., Pham, Q., Zhang, Z., Sun, J., Yu, L., Luo, Y., Wang, T. T. Y., & Chen, P. (2022). Profiling of polyphenols and glucosinolates in kale and broccoli microgreens grown under chamber and windowsill conditions by ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry. ACS Food Science & Technology, 2(1), 101–113. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsfoodscitech.1c00355
Verlinden, S. (2020). Microgreens: Definitions, product types, and production practices. In Horticultural Reviews (pp. 85–124). Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119625407.ch3
Xiao, Z., Lester, G. E., Park, E., Saftner, R. A., Luo, Y., & Wang, Q. (2015). Evaluation and correlation of sensory attributes and chemical compositions of emerging fresh produce: Microgreens. Postharvest Biology and Technology, 110, 140–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.postharvbio.2015.07.021