- Easy to use
- No soil whatsoever
- Produces bushy microgreens in about a week
- Looks great and fits just about anywhere
- More expensive than other microgreen gardens
- Limited to growing only microgreens
Ask a nutritionist about microgreens and they might just tell you that these tiny plants are the underdog of the nutrition world. The unassuming miniature vegetables may not be terribly satiating, but for a simple punch of vitamins and antioxidants, microgreens are like a natural multivitamin. Many have a mild taste, too, while others offer a good pop of aromatic flavor. That means that there's a wealth of culinary applications for microgreens on top of their health benefits.
Microgreens, which are simply young vegetable greens, can be tricky to find at the market, but these dainty little superfoods are quick and easy to grow at home. Now, a newly launched hydroponic smart garden called Ingarden is looking to make the process even easier. And with a sleek and simple Scandi design, Ingarden might just be the best-looking smart garden we've come across.
I got a chance to try the compact $100 Ingarden recently. I found the soilless smart garden attractive, intuitive and, as promised, it sprung lots of bushy microgreens in just a few days. Given its small size and efficient production, I'd recommend this smart garden for anyone interesting in growing and eating more healthy greens but with limited indoor space to do it.
Not to be confused with herbs or sprouts, microgreens are technically young vegetable greens that are small in size. Most have a concentrated vitamin and nutrient content including potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper. Microgreens are also rich in antioxidants which are known to reduce the risk of certain cancers, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and diabetes.
Microgreens have a host of culinary applications but most frequently appear as garnishes in restaurants or toppers at sandwich, soup and salad joints. There are dozens of varieties but a few popular types include mustard, broccoli, radish, watercress and arugula microgreens.
If you haven't paid these wispy greens much thought, you wouldn't be alone. But they pack a good nutrient punch that's worth your attention.
As of now, all you can grow in an Ingarden are microgreens. If you're looking for fresh herbs or lettuce, you'll want to spring for either a larger, more complex Aerogarden or a Click & Grow model.
Ingarden is a simpler smart garden, but with limitations
The most striking difference between this smart garden and others is its sheer simplicity. The Ingarden has an open reservoir of water that's wicked up to the organic seed pads above automatically. Instructions say to fill the water just once per harvest cycle but I found the reservoir dried up after about four days and needed a refill.
The three seed pads sit on trays above the water source and under a handle with a row of built-in LED lights. The light source operates on a timer and is essential for steady growth, but you can also manually control the light in case you want to speed up or slow down the growth.
Speaking of which…
Microgreens grow fast
I planted my first seed pads -- radish, red cabbage and mustard microgreens -- and had sprouts by day three. By day seven there were microgreens ready for harvest and by day 10, my Ingarden was bursting with micro vegetation.
The life cycle is short, so use them up
Once at full bloom, after about two weeks, the microgreens will start to wilt and wither if you don't harvest them. Aside from the spicy mustard greens, the greens I harvested didn't have a ton of big flavor, but that means you can snip them and use them in just about anything -- a sandwich, smoothie, sauce, salad, marinade -- without upsetting the flavor profile. They also make for an aromatic and healthy garnish for a bowl of soup or some grilled chicken or fish.
Ingarden fits on a windowsill and looks great
Perhaps my favorite thing about Ingarden is the design. The simple and streamlined Scandinavian-inspired garden is less than 6 inches wide and thus can live almost anywhere. Most other smart gardens are quite a bit bulkier (and uglier, if I'm being honest) and need more of a dedicated space.
The Ingarden fits seamlessly into just about any space and adds a pleasing pop of greenery to a coffee table, side table windowsill or bookshelf. That's something this New York apartment-dweller appreciates. It's also available in four colors: black, beige, mint green and rose.
The cost is high but the tradeoff is better design
The Ingarden is pricey for what is: A basic starter package with microgreens garden and seven seed pads is $100. Each pad can be sprouted only once and an additional package of seven pads costs $24, although they do get cheaper if you subscribe for three, six or 12 months.
For me, the tradeoff is better design and materials, and it's a good one. The Ingarden is made from stainless steel with no plastic used at all, unlike many of the leading indoor smart gardens. It's likely to last you a whole lot longer than a plastic smart garden, and it looks nicer too.
There are cheaper, simpler options, like this $16 microgreens garden on Amazon. They tend to work well but with no LED grow lights or watering mechanism, it'll require good natural sunlight and more attention.
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