Are Microgreens in Demand? (Solved & Explained!)

Yes, microgreens been in high demand by high-end restaurants in California since the 1990s, and they continue to be a popular garnish in better restaurants in North America and Europe. As a home gardening project, they’re quick easy to cultivate and provide excellent nutrient value.

Read below for more surprising information about microgreens.

Why are Microgreens Popular in High End Restaurants?

They pack a powerful nutritional punch, have concentrated flavor, and look beautiful on the plate.  These are qualities that account for their popularity in edgy nouvelle cuisine restaurants.

What Plants make the Best Microgreens?

The most popular varieties of microgreens are produced using seeds from the following plant families:

  • Amaranthaceae: amaranth, quinoa, swiss chard, beets, and spinach
  • Amaryllidaceae : garlic, onion, and leeks
  • Apiaceae: dill, carrots, fennel, and celery
  • Asteraceae: lettuce, endives, chicory, bok choi, and radicchio
  • Brassicaceae: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish, arugula
  • Cucurbitaceae: melons, cucumbers, and various kinds of squash

Are there any Cereals that are also Microgreens?

Some cereals can be grown as microgreens as well. These include rice, oats, wheat, corn, and barley, as long as they are cut before they blossom. There is no mainstream cereal brand using microgreens though, and there likely wont be one, because the cost is so much higher to produce. There are a few specialty brands that you can find in health food stoes however. 

What about Legumes?

Yes, legumes can be grown this way too, although they rarely result in produce that resembles the legume. These can include the chickpea, the bean, or the lentil. Farmer and chefs are constantly experimenting with microgreens to introduce new kinds to their menus.

What’s the Difference Between Sprouts, Baby Greens, and Microgreens?

Microgreens are not to be confused with sprouts which are young plants that lack leaves. On the other hand, they should also not be confused with “baby greens” because of their size, which is smaller than baby greens. Microgreens consist only of a stem and cotyledon leaves, and are 3-4” (7-12 cm) high.

What are Microgreens?

The term “microgreens” is a marketing term used to designate a kind of food plant cultivation pioneered by chefs and their farm suppliers in the San Francisco California area in the 1980s. By the 1990s, microgreens had begun to be incorporated in the menus of the finer restaurants all around California. The term itself was coined in 1998 to describe young plants of various kinds approximately 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm) tall, including the stems and leaves (called cotyledons) of young food plants.

How Long have Microgreens been Around?

Microgreens are a relatively new way of describing young vegetables, developed and made popular by high end restaurants in California in the 1980s and developed in the 1990s as a specialty item. They are an integral part of such popular menus as the “100 mile diet,” the “Slow Food Movement”, and “Nouvelle Cuisine,” with great popularity in European restaurants as well.

Are Microgreens Paleo or Modern?

Although the popularity of microgreens has taken off in recent decades, mustard and cress have been included in European, British, and even some Asian diets for centuries, grown and served in much the same way as newer, more exotic microgreens. So, rather than considering them a fad, we can understand microgreens as one of the oldest forms of vegetable consumption. Microgreens, in fact, are consistent with the paleo diet.

How are Microgreens Harvested?

A microgreen has one central stem, cut a sort distance from the root, above the ground. They are generally cut between 7 and 14 days after germination when the cotyledons (seed leaves) have developed fully but before the mature leaves have expanded. After harvesting, they have a reasonably long short shelf life although they deteriorate fairly rapidly, and so they must be eaten within a short period of time to maintain their color and taste.

Are Microgreens Healthy?

Researchers from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS, a branch of the USDA) studied microgreens for their concentration of various important vitamins and carotenoids. To streamline this study, they focussed their attention on twenty-five of the most common commercially available varieties.

They found, on average, microgreens contain five times as much ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), phylloquinone (vitamin K), and a larger than normal amount of beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor) and other carotenoids in the cotyledons of the plants.  The plants with the highest concentrations of vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K, and vitamin E include cilantro, red cabbage, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish.

Are Microgreens Environmentally Friendly?

Not really. Microgreens are the least environmentally sustainable way to provide vegetables because they are often grown in acetate ( a form of paper pulp) and because they require a large amount of packaging to be transported safely. They’re often transported over long distances in plastic clamshell containers, which are not considered optimal for storage. Still, microgreens can last for several weeks after being cut, although their nutrient value decreases with time in storage.

What are Polyphenols?

Microgreens have high levels of polyphenols, which are natural chemicals with powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from building up in the body to levels that are toxic. Polyphenols reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and other chronic diseases.

Superfood?

The health value of these foods have been known for centuries, and the newer forms of these, known as microgreens are considered to be a superfood because of their exceptional nutritional content and the ease with which they can be grown all year long. In fact, you can easily grow many of the microgreens in a balcony plant box or window box, or even indoors, during the winter.

Are Microgreens Dangerous?

As a rule, microgreens are not dangerous to your health. There is a small risk of food poisoning from salmonella, listeria, E. coli, or the norovirus, which is normal with foods that are generally served raw. In order to reduce this risk, you should always rinse them thoroughly before eating. They are much safer to eat than vegetables in sprout form, which are often grown hydroponically or in less than sanitary conditions. This is not true of microgreens, which are grown in much more tightly controlled environments.