Knowing how to store microgreens properly will save you time, money, and frustration.
Nothing is more frustrating than reaching into the refrigerator to grab the microgreens you have worked hard to grow and find a stinky, gooey mess.
Keeping microgreens fresh slows down the loss of nutritional value and retains flavor and crispness.
Increasing the shelf life of harvested microgreens by a couple of days will reduce the number of trays you will need to grow over the year. After all, saving money is one of the reasons we grow microgreens at home in the first place.
Let's face it, poorly stored microgreens rob you of nutritional value, flavor, time, dinner plans, and money.
How to Store Microgreens to Maximize Shelf Life
I’m going to discuss several different ways how to store microgreens after you harvest them. Below I show you how I store my microgreens and the step-by-step process I follow.
Microgreen Shelf Life
Many microgreens have a long shelf life, pea shoots for instance can be stored for three weeks or more.
However, most common microgreens, such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale, can be stored for up to 14 days without losing much of their nutritional value and flavor if stored properly.
Sofer type of microgreens, like mustards, arugula, and amaranth have a shorter shelf life of up to ten days or so before they start to become limp and dehydrated.
The Best Way to Retain Microgreen Freshness
Don’t harvest your microgreens.
No, I’m not trying to be funny. The best way to store microgreens is when they are upright and growing in trays.
Don’t plan to harvesting a whole tray of microgreens at once.
Only cut what you need at any one time.
I grow microgreens in my smaller growing tray instead of a bigger tray. Yes, I need to plant more often, but at each meal I have the freshest microgreens.
I’m only feeding one person most of the time, so if you have a family to feed, you might have to grow more microgreens or use a larger tray.
But the point is only to grow the amount you can eat fresh and plant new trays more often, so another tray is ready for harvest when you the finish the last.
Freshly harvested microgreens not only taste better but they’re also more nutritious. This is because vegetables lose vitamin concentrations every day after harvesting.
But There Comes a Time When You Will Need to Store Microgreens
At some point, you’ll won't be able to eat all of the microgreens you grew. You'll have no choice but to harvest and refrigerate them.
Maybe they grew too quickly, or you used less, or the timing between trays wasn't correct. Whatever the case, learning how to extend their shelf life will come in handy.
Other microgreens, like radishes and sunflower shoots, need to be harvested in a much shorter window than others. They only provide you with a day or two of being perfect before going too far and the flavor deteriorates.
So there comes the point when you need to harvest the microgreens and store them for later use.
How to Store Microgreens: Factors That Affect Freshness
There are several factors to keep in mind when storing microgreens. You need to consider some aspects of these factors even before you harvest a single microgreen.
Mostly, you will see that it's a yin & yang of moisture. Always a balance of enough but not too much moisture.
Here is a list of the factors, and I’ll discuss each of them one at a time or in combination below.
Factors That Affect Freshness of Microgreens
- Internal Moisture
- External Moisture
- The Cut
- Type of Container
- Air Flow Between Microgreens
In the video, I use a pair of sharp scissors to harvest the red cabbage microgreens. Scissors are much easier to use, but only for microgreens that you will use in the next day or so.
For longer shelf life, use a sharp knife as the cut is cleaner and doesn't do as much damage to the stems. Stem damage will lead to quicker deterioration of the microgreens.
More about this later in the article.
Internal Moisture & External Moisture
When you harvest microgreens you want those stems and leaves to be full of water.
You want juicy, plump microgreens, not dry ones wilting in the tray. But you only want that moisture inside the stems and leaves, not on the outside of the microgreen.
This is why bottom watering is the only way to water microgreens. Watering over the top of microgreens can cause mold and bacterial infestations, reducing the shelf life of your microgreens
That said, it’s not a great idea to bottom water your microgreens before harvesting either. Excess water can spill or drip from the tray onto your harvest.
Spilled or dripped water from the tray will not only wet the outside of the microgreens but could also introduce bacteria onto your harvest.
When To Water Microgreens Before Harvesting?
I recommend watering your microgreens 12 to 24 hours before harvesting. That time frame allows the water to be absorbed by both the grow media and the microgreens.
We want microgreens to have internal moisture but not external moisture.
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I’ve already discussed this, but it’s the most important factor.
Dry microgreens will keep much longer than wet microgreens.
Now, some microgreens are almost impossible to keep dry. Radishes are the worst offenders.
Radishes constantly transpire (I think that’s the cause) because the stems are always wet in the middle of the tray, even if a fan is blowing on them.
In this case, it’s best to spread the radish microgreens (or any other wet microgreen) out on a paper towel and use another to pat them dry.
Gentleness is a factor so keep that in mind.
I almost always use a dry paper towel in the bottom of the storage container, but if the microgreens are damp that is a must.
Keeping the outside of microgreens dry will increase the shelf life.
A clean straight cut is the best way to harvest microgreens.
It might be hard to see the cut end of a microgreen, but picture the butt end of a lettuce head.
When you take a knife and trim the lettuce butt, it is green and white. After a little while, the cut turns brown.
Oxidation and enzymes activated by cutting turns the wound brown. It is oxidation and enzymes that increase the rate of decomposition.
Now, it’s impossible to eliminate either of these when you harvest microgreens.
But we want to reduce the area of oxidation as much as possible.
Therefore if you plan on storing microgreens, it’s best to use a sharp knife to cut them.
I know; in my videos and articles I recommend using a pair of scissors to harvest microgreens.
One reason I do this is I don't want to recommend using a sharp knife and have someone cut themselves.
Scissors are easier and work fine to use on microgreens that you will eat or store for a day.
But a sharp knife is better to use on microgreens if you plan on storing them any longer.
Scissors more or less smash the stem, make a jagged cut. This action bruises a large portion of the stem and increases the oxidation.
Also, when using a knife, don’t try to cut the whole width of the tray at once.
The knife will turn upwards and cut the stem at an angle, increasing the surface area for oxidation. Short pulls with the blade are best.
Harvest knives work great. They are sharp out of the package, have a flat edge that reduces poor cuts, and a thin blade that makes a clean cut.
Use a sharp knife to harvest microgreens you plan to store and don't cut too many at once when harvesting.
Don't Wash Microgreens Before Storing
Do not wash your microgreens before you store them. Instead, keep them dry and wash them in cold water when you’re ready to use them.
It's the whole keep them dry thing.
Be Gentle With Microgreens
Bruising the stems and leaves of microgreens will reduce their shelf life.
Handle greens gently.
When harvesting, don’t grab too many greens at once, as this can bruise them.
Don’t throw them into a container; instead, place them in neat rows in the bottom and alternate the stems and leaves as they stack.
If you need to pat them dry, do it as carefully as possible.
Don’t force the greens together when closing a container.
My biggest error with gentleness is throwing other produce the refrigerator on top of my harvested microgreens.
Any bruising or smashing of the greens will reduce the shelf life.
The Best Container for Storing Microgreens
What container you use affects many factors that will shorten or lengthen the shelf life of your microgreens.
Let’s discuss the factors first, then choose the best container for microgreens.
Air Flow Between the Microgreens
It’s best to have a little space between the microgreen stems and leaves. Even if there is a cover or lid over the container, there will be airflow from convection currents.
Some air flow will dry any condensation that forms on the stems and leaves.
All this means is that we don’t want to pack microgreens tightly in any container.
Air Flow Over the Microgreens
While the weak convection currents in the container help keep the microgreens dry, too much airflow will desiccate and remove moisture from the microgreens.
Therefore, the container needs to be covered.
The Amount of Air in the Container
The less air in the container, the less oxygen there will be to oxidize the microgreens.
The depth of the container should be shallow, and the cover should be as close to the microgreens as possible without squishing them together.
Another reason to have a container with less air space is condensation.
Condensation will occur as the greens are producing heat. The warmer air will condense moisture on all cooler microgreens inside the container as well as the sides and cover.
A container with a smaller volume will condensation less than a container with a greater volume.
Use a container as small as possible without crushing the microgreens.
What Should the Container be Made From?
Condensation more readily forms on glass containers. Plastic is more of an insulator than glass and is a better choice for storing microgreens.
This doesn't mean that covering a container with plastic wrap is a good idea. Plastic wrap is so thin that it has no insulation capacity.
Plastic storage containers are the best to use.
Before I move on to the temperature, let me focus on my two favorite microgreen storage containers.
How to Store Microgreens My Way
My First Best Way
Many people don't recommend using sealed containers or resealable bags.
But I think something that seals works better than an open container covered with a damp paper towel. An airtight container can cause excess moisture, but there are ways to deal with humidity.
I use a rigid plastic container (mostly lock & lock containers) with a double layer of paper towel on the bottom and a piece of paper towel over the top held in place by the locking cover.
Layer in your microgreens so they reach the top but won't be compressed when you place the cover on the container.
I drape the paper towel over the container and snap on the lid. The upper paper towel catches any condensation that forms on the cover and drips down.
I use the smallest container I have without the microgreens spilling out the top.
*By the way, Lock & Lock containers work great to store seed too.
Snap the cover on and that holds the upper paper towel in place. If it gets wet, replace it.
The plastic container reduces condensation compared to glass, and the two layers of paper towels on the bottom absorb any condensation that forms and drips or runs down the sides.
The lock-n-lock containers have a raised middle section that keeps most of the microgreens out of any significant condensation.
Like in the summer, when it’s very humid, I open the refrigerator door to get water and iced coffee fairly often. Yes, the paper towel does get wet, but the towel spreads out the moisture, and the greens aren’t lying in a pool of water.
All would be perfect, except, I’m always afraid I’ll push the container to the back of the shelf, where more often than not, it freezes. I have an older unit, and maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but for me, it is.
The crisper section of my refrigerator is at the most consistent safe temperature.
But it’s hard to fit a container in my crisper as I’m always fighting with it and something else for space.
But I found that it works well using this method and storing the container on the shelf as long as I'm careful not to push it back on the shelf.
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My Second Way to Store Microgreens
I use the second method when I have only a few microgreens to store or am in a hurry.
I use a gallon resealable plastic bag that I have poked 10 to 12 times with a paring knife, making ½-inch slots.
I lay the bag down on the table and slide in two layers of dry paper towels.
Then I fill the bag with my microgreens, lay it on the table paper towel side down, and gently push the air out the slots.
I don’t push down on the microgreens with force, just enough to remove the excess air.
Then I can slide this bag into the crisper on top of all the other stuff. There is more condensation than the method with the paper towel on top, but there are also fewer microgreens, and I use them up before they go bad.
Why These Methods For Storing Microgreens Work
Both methods have precautions for excess condensation. Plastic forms less to begin with and the paper towels absorb any that does form.
Both methods allow for air movement between the stems and leaves but stop significant air movement from reaching the microgreens.
I found that the slots cut in the plastic bag allow enough moisture to leave the bag without forming excess condensation.
The larger container lets me store more microgreens for longer, and the zip lock bag keeps smaller amounts of microgreens in good shape without hassle or taking up much space.
What is the Best Temperature for Storing Microgreens
The best temperature is 33 degrees, right above freezing. However, you risk freezing microgreens, and they definitely can’t freeze and still be good.
Because of my out-of-date, almost antique refrigerator, I keep my microgreens in the crisper section if I have room. If the crisper is full, the container gets placed on the hinged door side, where it is exposed to less warm air when it opens.
Because, microgreens exposed to alternating temperatures can cause a shorter shelf life.
Any temperatures less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit but above freezing will work.
Bad Things in the Refrigerator
Other food stored in your refrigerator can reduce your microgreens' shelf life and nutritional benefits.
These are mostly fruits and some vegetables that emit ethylene as they ripen.
Microgreens and lettuce are sensitive to ethylene.
Apples and pears are the most abundant ethylene producers, but all fruits and harder-skinned vegetables produce the gas.
Lettuce and baby greens will form brown spots if exposed to ethylene.
There are bags that will absorb ethylene and keep all of your produce fresher for longer in your refrigerator.
With the cost of food, these bags will save you money in the long run, especially since they are reusable.
I don’t seem to have a problem with microgreens going bad since I usually harvest as I need them or store very few.
But lettuce, on the other hand, forms brown spots reasonably quickly, and these bags will keep it fresher and better looking longer.
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How to Store Microgreens: A Summary
It’s best to harvest your microgreens as you need them. But if you need to harvest a tray, here is my recommendation to increase the shelf life of your products.
- Water microgreens 12 to 24 hours before harvest.
- Bottom water only.
- Use a thin, sharp knife to harvest. A clean cut causes less damage and spoilage. I use this knife.
- If the microgreens are wet on the outside, gently pat them dry.
- Do not handle microgreens roughy.
- Store your microgreens in a shallow plastic container the same size as your harvest.
- Line the bottom of the container with paper towels
- Don’t squish the microgreens with the cover.
- Use a paper towel over (better if it is suspended above the greens) the greens and locked in place with the cover. This stops any condensation from dripping down.
- Avoid extreme temperatures. Keep the container in the part of the refrigerator that has the most constant temperature, between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Swings in temperature cause more condensation.
- If you store a lot of fruit and vegetables in your refrigerator, use these bags (for fruit or the leafy greens) or a closed cover to preserve your fresh microgreens and other leafy vegetables.
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