The annual transition from garden-fresh greens and tomatoes to purchased ones is a shock. One minute you’re knee-deep in home-grown produce, the next consigned to expensive selections that have sometimes traveled a distance from soil to shelf. We try to eke out store-bought salad greens with the sturdier remains from our own harvest. Cabbage, finely julienned, lends a nice crunch, grated carrots a splash of color. Transparently thin slices of sweet onion that have been marinated in beet-pickling juice give a jolt of neon-pink color and vinegary tang. Our pantry shelves always contain canned back olives that contribute flavor and color, and toasted sunflower seeds or almonds do their part, but as autumn deepens into winter, it’s time to start thinking of growing microgreens indoors. Not only do these edible immature greens look beautiful and taste delicious, they’re also reputed to have higher nutritional densities than mature leaves. When researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland-College Park tested 25 commercially available microgreen varieties, they found microgreens contain considerably higher concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids than their mature plant counterparts, although large variations were found among the 25 species tested. Leaves from nearly every variety tested 4 to 40 times more concentrated with certain nutrients than leaves from their full-grown counterparts.

Another good reason to plant microgreens this season is that restricted socializing means we all, adults and children alike, are spending more time inside and need projects to keep us happily occupied. Along with a purchased curriculum to use in homeschooling her two children, my daughter has subscribed to a monthly science experiment that arrives in a box, started two terrariums that can be landscaped with materials foraged on daily walks, and started a mini natural museum of all sorts of rocks, shells, mosses and birds’ nests to be classified and displayed. On a recent visit I helped shred newspaper to make a home for the newest addition — a half-pound of red wiggler worms that had a close escape from death when they were left on the wrong doorstep in near-freezing temperatures by a clueless delivery service. But they perked up and will go on to make high-quality compost and use up the mounds of coffee grounds that the chickens don’t eat. An indoor microgreens project seems a good addition to the other activities, both fun and practical.

For growing microgreens, all you need is a bright room. No lights are needed if you plan to harvest at a young age. To grow your seedlings to the baby green size, however, you’ll need a bright, south-facing window or grow lights. Any seeds can be used inside, and indoor greens are a good way to use up leftover seeds from the garden. Loose-leaf lettuces, spinach, arugula, mustard, mizuna, and kale, cabbage, beets and radishes are good to grow indoors. There are indoor green mixes you can buy, some spicy, others mild in flavor. There are also fancy kits to get you started growing, but if you have a sunny windowsill, a shallow container, some potting mix and suitable seeds, and a plant mister, you’ve already got the essentials. Recycled plastic take-out dishes and disposable pie plates work well, as do clear fruit or salad clamshell-type boxes. If your chosen container doesn’t have built-in drainage, poke a few drainage holes in the bottom. Then, prepare to get planting.

First, read the seed packets to see if there are any special instructions. Then spread an inch or two of moistened potting soil or coir mix over the bottom of your container. Flatten and level it with your hand or a small piece of cardboard, taking care not to compress the soil, then scatter seeds evenly on top and press gently into the medium. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Dampen the surface with a mister or skip the misting and instead cover the container with its clear lid until the seeds are sprouted. While waiting for sprouts to appear, usually within three to seven days, use the mister once or twice daily to keep the soil moist but not wet. Once seeds have sprouted, remove the cover (if you’ve used one) and continue to mist once or twice a day. Rotate the trays so the seeds grow tall and don’t lean toward the light.

Depending upon the type of seeds you’ve selected, your microgreens will be ready to harvest two to three weeks after planting. Look for the first set of true leaves as a sign of readiness, then use scissors to snip the greens just above the soil line. Wash your greens with water and pat dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner. Serve them immediately for the freshest flavor. Store remaining cut microgreens in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

After the harvest, toss the roots and planting medium into your compost and begin again. To insure a good supply of these healthful greens, plan ahead and plant successive crops about 10 days apart.