Microgreens: What are they and why should I care?

Red cabbage microgreens grown indoors in soil

A few weeks back I wrote about eating seasonally and that I love going to the farmers market in my neighborhood to buy local produce. Last weekend as I perused the stands, I came across a stand dedicated to microgreens. I’ve seen microgreens used as a garnish at high-end restaurants or maybe as an additive at select smoothie bars. This piqued my curiosity and I wanted to learn what the benefits are and why I might want to use them in my recipes.

Microgreens are essentially the young version of vegetable greens. They are the middle growing stage between sprouts and baby greens. Sprouts are typically harvested between 2-5 days, microgreens between 7-14 days and baby greens at 3-4 weeks. In many cases when you see them at the store, they are still in dirt and are alive until cut. This keeps them fresh, and they retain the highest nutrient content. They come in a variety of colors, which is one reason they’ve been used as garnish to enhance foods. This also means that they vary in taste from spicy to bitter or even a bit earthy.

There are several varieties of microgreens grown from the following plant families:

  • Amaranthaceae family: Includes amaranth, beets, chard, quinoa, and spinach.
  • Amaryllidaceae family: Includes chives, garlic, leeks, and onions.
  • Apiaceae family: Includes carrot, celery, dill, and fennel.
  • Asteraceae family: Includes chicory, endive, lettuce, and radicchio.
  • Brassicaceae family: Includes arugula, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, and watercress.
  • Cucurbitaceae family: Includes cucumbers, melons, and squashes.
  • Lamiaceae family: Includes most common herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, sage, and oregano.
  • Poaceae family: Includes grasses and cereals like barley, corn, rice, oats, and wheatgrass. As well as legumes including beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

I’ve read many articles recently about how to boost the immune system and to improve our health through food. Microgreens are full of vitamins and minerals and have been reported to have four to forty times the amount of nutrition of their mature versions. They are a great source of antioxidants and are commonly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper. And, because they leaves are nutrient dense, you don’t need to eat a lot of them to reap the benefits.

Many of us are cooking at home now more than ever and we are looking for ways to add some creativity to the meal. Microgreens are a great way to mix it up with color, flavor and texture in soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, egg dishes, fish or just about anything. This video will give you ten simple recipes that you can try using these beautiful, nutritious greens. 

Lastly, an added benefit to microgreens is that they are sustainable. They are very easy to grow, take up minimal space and you can get the benefits of having fresh organic greens at your fingertips. This can be a fun project to do with kids and it may even get them eating their greens.

Resources:

The Health Benefits of Microgreens

The National Library of Medicine: Assessment of vitamin and carotenoid concentrations of emerging food products: edible microgreens

Healthline: Microgreens: All You Ever Wanted to Know

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