Sunflower Pesto

One of my favorite microgreens is the sunflower. I can’t get enough of the nutty, buttery, slightly piney taste of sunflower microgreens, and they’re a joy to grow. This particular microgreen will happily thrive in natural light, and asks only for a window with medium sun. I grow mine on homemade shelves in a west-facing window. They are a reliable crop year-round, and loaded with nutritional benefits.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with new recipes for my microgreens. In particular, I’ve been looking for ways to feed them to my friends and family who might not be as keen to chow down on plain greens as I am. One of my most successful attempts so far has been this recipe for Sunflower Pesto.

In addition to being my favorite microgreen variety, sunflower is a wonderful native food plant. I love incorporating its many edible parts into my cooking. I also grow plenty of sunflowers outdoors where all creatures great and small can enjoy their blooms. This recipe uses three sunflower products: the greens, the seeds, and the seed oil.

Ingredients

1 box (1/2 pint) Sunflower Microgreens
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or Organic Cold-Pressed Sunflower Oil
1/2 – 1 cup goat cheese crumbles, or a vegan cheese substitute of your choice
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1-3 medium sized garlic cloves, according to your taste preferences
Salt & Pepper To Taste. As a guideline for most palates, try 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.

Instructions

Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until nearly smooth. Pause to scrape down the sides of the food processor container if you notice ingredients sticking to the sides near the top.

Serving Suggestions

This pesto is delicious in all the ways I’ve tried it. You can use it in any recipe you currently enjoy that calls for pesto. Here are a few suggestions:
* As a spread for sandwiches
* As a pasta sauce, or combined with a creamy pasta sauce
* Mixed into the dressing for potato salads
* Slathered on roasted corn on the cob
* Tossed with grilled zucchini
* As a dip for your favorite raw veggies.

Notes

Sunflower Oil: If you can’t find cold-pressed organic sunflower oil, then I recommend using extra virgin olive oil instead. The inexpensive sunflower oil commonly sold in grocery stores is heavily processed with chemical solvents, and I don’t personally consider it to be a healthy choice. Of course, feel free to choose the olive oil anyway, for its excellent flavor, health benefits, and higher likelihood of already existing in your pantry.

Cheese Portions: If you are serving this recipe to people who are not eager greens-eaters, then I definitely recommend including the full cup of cheese. If you enjoy fresh green flavors and are looking for a healthier option, then reduce the cheese to 1/2 cup.

Vegan Substitutions: To make this recipe vegan, substitute the vegan cheese of your choice for the goat cheese crumbles. I really enjoy nutritional yeast as an affordable and easy substitute for cheese in pesto recipes. I also love this vegan mozzarella recipe from Avocadoes & Ales. There are numerous store-bought vegan cheese preparations available now, which is a wonderful convenience for those who choose to limit or eliminate dairy in their diet. If you’re going with one of these pre-made options, I suggest choosing one of the soft vegan cheeses rather than shreds or slices.

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Grilled Cheese with Sunflower Microgreens

Shortly after I left the big city, I realized that fresh salad ingredients were a little harder to come by in my new rural home. In the warm months I could rely on my garden, but what about the winter months? Leafy greens are the foundation of my own personal food pyramid, so I was highly motivated to find a solution to this problem. My quest led me to the library, where I found Peter Burke’s book, “Year Round Indoor Salad Gardening”. This is a book about growing microgreens on a window sill all year long. I got right on it and immediately planted all my windows, and I’ve been growing these delicious tiny greens ever since. Although my initial need was for winter greens, I grow these even in the summers because they are so delicious and reliable. The seeds can be purchased in large quantities from Johnny’s or The Sprout House, and they store well in airtight containers in my unheated basement. When the pandemic hit and grocery stores got crazy and my budget approached zero, I stayed home and sprouted my stash. Last year, I built shelving in my windows to increase my growing area to begin selling these delicious tiny harvests at my local farmers market. These greens have brought so much joy to my life. Whether you grow your own or purchase them at the market, this recipe brings a healthy twist to an indulgent childhood favorite recipe: the grilled cheese sandwich.

This recipe may work with other types of microgreens, but sunflower sprouts are my favorite. Unlike some of the more delicate types of microgreens, sunflowers hold up well to a bit of heat. Their succulent texture and nutty green flavor complements the melted cheese in a wonderful way, each encouraging the other to be even more of what we already love about it. And if you enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches often, adding microgreens to something you’re already making is a great way to give your meal a quick and easy nutrient boost.

Ingredients

– 1/2 box sunflower microgreens (about one big handful)
– 2 slices sandwich bread of your choice
– 1.5 slices white cheddar cheese, or enough to cover bread in a single layer
– 1.5 slices colby jack cheese, or enough to cover bread in a single layer
– Mayonnaise

Recipe

Place your pan on the stovetop and preheat it as you normally would for grilled cheese. Preheating is different depending on the type of pan you use. For example, if you have a nonstick pan with Teflon coating, you really shouldn’t preheat it at all. I use a cast iron griddle, which takes preheating very well. I preheat my cast iron griddle on medium heat for a few minutes, until a drop of water sprinkled on the pan sizzles. Cast iron conducts heat very well, so the pan can become hotter than other types of pans on a lower burner setting. If you are using a stainless steel pan, you might want to preheat the pan for a shorter amount of time, but on medium-high heat. You probably already know how to use your own pan.

While the pan is preheating, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on each slice of bread. This mayonnaise layer is going to be the outside of the sandwich. I do this instead of melting a big chunk of butter in the pan. This way you get the good stuff right where you want it. Mayonnaise makes a lovely crispy textured bread when grilled.

Next, gather your sunflower greens and roughly chop them into bite sized pieces.

When the pan is ready, place one slice of bread mayo-side-down onto the skillet. Lay a slice of cheese (or a slice and a half, depending on the size of your bread) on top. Next, lay your microgreens on top of the cheese layer. At this time, your sandwich should look something like this:

a slice of bread topped with a slice of cheese topped with chopped sunflower microgreens sits in a cast iron skillet

Cover the greens with another slice (or slice and a half) of cheese, and then top it all off with the final slice of bread mayo-side-up. Stay and watch as the sandwich cooks. When you start to see the bottom layer of cheese soften, carefully check the underside of the bottom slice of bread. If it looks crispy and golden, then it’s time to flip. Slide a spatula underneath the sandwich, and carefully steady the top side while you flip the sandwich over. Allow the other slice of bread to become crispy and the rest of the cheese to melt.

Slice the completed sandwich into your preferred shape and enjoy with a green salad or a hot cup of tomato soup.

Troubleshooting

When I was first learning to make grilled cheese sandwiches, I had trouble getting it just right. It seemed like the bread would burn before the cheese melted. If this is happening to you, try turning down the heat. For example, if you’re cooking on medium high, try the medium setting. Another thing you can do is to remove the sandwich from the skillet when the bread is done, even if the cheese isn’t melted yet. You can finish melting the cheese in the oven.

Further Reading

For more information about microgreens, check out these other posts:
A Micro-Farm for Microgreens
Two Summer Dips: Recipes Featuring Microgreens!

If you enjoyed this totally ad-free, affiliate-link-free, sponsored-content-free, subscription-fee-free, 100% honest free article, please consider showing us some love! You can help us and our cause of Earth-positive agriculture by sharing this article with your friends, following us on social media, and interacting with our posts. If you’re feeling especially generous, you could also toss us a few coins through a free platform called Ko-Fi. It’s easy to use and processes through PayPal so you don’t have to create a new account.

Two Summer Dips: Recipes Featuring Microgreens!

After a perfect sunny Saturday at the farmers market, Sunday is a day for cooking up all the veggies we brought home. For me, that means the veggies I brought but didn’t sell. For you, perhaps it means the veggies you purchased. This week I find myself with an abundance of microgreens. Normally I enjoy my microgreens in simple preparations that really let their flavor shine. I sprinkle them on top of scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, sandwiches, and soups. I make salads with them, or add them to big leafy salads combined with other greens. Today, I was in the mood for something a little more celebratory for the family Father’s Day Barbecue. Mediterranean flavors were calling to me, and the basil in my garden needed a little trim. I came up with two variations on a fresh-flavored summer dip featuring pea tendrils and buckwheat microgreens.

Mediterranean Microgreens Bruschetta

This version is heart-healthy, vegan, and completely delicious. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 box buckwheat microgreens (1/2 pint)
1 box pea tendrils (1/2 pint)
1 bunch fresh basil leaves (1 cup, gently packed)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 12oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 14.5oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained

Add buckwheat microgreens, pea tendrils, and fresh basil leaves to a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop and combine. Add artichokes and red peppers to the food processor. Pulse again until ingredients are uniformly chopped and combined.

Add salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to taste if desired. Serve atop toasted baguette slices or on your favorite crackers.

Creamy Microgreens and Artichoke Dip

Creamy Microgreens Dip

This dip is a little more indulgent than the bruschetta, and perfect for a celebration. It feels like a treat, but is secretly packed with nutrients!


Ingredients:
1 box buckwheat microgreens (1/2 pint)
1 box pea tendrils (1/2 pint)
1 bunch fresh basil leaves (1 cup, gently packed)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 12oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 14.5oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 package unflavored cream cheese
5oz Parmesan Cheese, grated

Add buckwheat microgreens, pea tendrils, and fresh basil leaves to a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop and combine. Add artichokes and red peppers to the food processor. Pulse again until ingredients are uniformly chopped and combined. Add cream cheese and parmesan and pulse just enough to combine the ingredients.

Add salt and black pepper to taste if desired. Serve cold or warm with tortilla chips, or spread on a sandwich with your favorite vegetable fillings.

Further Reading

You may also enjoy some of my other articles about microgreens:
A Micro-Farm for Microgreens
Two Summer Dips: Recipes Featuring Microgreens!

A Personal Note About Artichokes

Both of these recipes also feature artichoke hearts. Artichokes are a special food in my family. My parents lived in California at the beginning of their marriage, before I existed. They lived in one of the regions where most of the country’s artichokes are farmed, and they learned to love this edible flower bud. It became a family tradition that endured even after they moved to Indiana, where artichokes are less common. I grew up loving them and I’ve tried time after time to grow them in my garden, even though that is challenging here. I’m getting better at it, and I continue to try every year, though I’ve never succeeded. Maybe this year will be the year I get to harvest a fresh artichoke from my garden. I hope so. Meanwhile, I buy them once in a while. They’re available from most grocery stores in cans and jars, and sometimes you can find them frozen or even fresh. During both two years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I attended the annual Castroville Artichoke Festival. I once took third place in an artichoke eating contest (which is all about strategy rather than stomach capacity). I always dressed up for the occasion.

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A Micro-Farm for Microgreens

After a whole summer of planning, testing, number-crunching, and preparing, I’m finally ready to begin offering my first farm crop for sale. It’s November now, our growing season is almost over, and I have no greenhouse. But that’s just fine, because I’m going to be growing this farm crop right inside my kitchen!

Microgreens are one of my all time favorite crops, and I’ve been growing them for years. They take up very little space, require a low-tech setup, and they are ready to harvest within weeks. They’re also very delicious, exceptionally nutritious, and I have never seen them for sale at the grocery store. I usually grow a few trays on my window sills, but I need much more growing space if I want to grow enough to sell. So today I built these shelves to increase my window growing area. This new system will hold 30 trays of microgreens (a tray, for me, is a loaf pan).

How To:

To build these shelves, I used two 1x8x10 boards, and fourteen 15/8 length screws.

I measured the inner width of my windows (16.25″) and cut ten pieces of that length. Your cut length and number of pieces will vary based on the size of your window. These pieces will be the shelves.

I then cut fourteen 1.25″ pieces from the remnant board to serve as supports for the shelves. The number of support pieces you will need is equal to the number of shelves you intend to build that are positioned above the window sill.

The bottom shelf lies flat on the window sill, so it does not need any supports. I chose to do this instead of placing my trays directly on the window sill as protection from any water or stains that may dribble downward.

The higher shelves each rest on top of two support pieces. First, measure from the shelf below to reach a height above the tallest plants you want to grow. I give 13″ of vertical space to taller greens like peas and sunflowers, and 8″ of vertical space to shorter greens like broccoli and cabbage.

Once you find the height of your shelf, make a mark using a grease pencil or chalk. Use a box level or a ruler to make an identical mark on the other side at the same height. Secure one support piece to each side of the window frame along the mark you made with two screws each. Place your board to rest on top, then check to make sure that the shelf is level enough for your purposes.

I chose not to attach my shelf boards to the support pieces. They feel pretty sturdy resting on top, and I think the whole system will be easier to clean and maintain if the shelves are removable. However, if I find that they need to be more securely attached, I can always use an extra screw or two to attach them to the support pieces, or attach extra support pieces above the shelf boards.

Repeat adding additional shelves in this manner until your window is full or you have as much shelf space as your growing needs require.

Growing The Microgreens

I may write my own tutorial on growing microgreens someday, since I’ve been growing them for years now and I have developed my own style over time. But meanwhile, if you’re interested in learning how to grow your own, check your library for Peter Burke’s book “Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening”. That’s the book I used to get started.

And here are photos of some of the delicious microgreens I’ve already grown in my kitchen!


Once you’ve grown some greens, check out these great recipes:
Two Summer Dips: Recipes Featuring Microgreens!
Grilled Cheese with Sunflower Microgreens

If you enjoyed this totally ad-free, affiliate-link-free, sponsored-content-free, subscription-fee-free, 100% honest free article, please consider showing us some love! You can help us and our cause of Earth-positive agriculture by sharing this article with your friends, following us on social media, and interacting with our posts. If you’re feeling especially generous, you could also toss us a few coins through a free platform called Ko-Fi. It’s easy to use and processes through PayPal so you don’t have to create a new account.