Is Baby Kale a Microgreen? (Solved & Explained!)

Baby kale is not a microgreen. Young vegetables like baby kale are defined as immature plants between one to three inches tall (or 2.5-7.5 centimeters tall), whereas microgreens are typically smaller and harvested just after their cotyledon leaves have developed.

The remainder of this article will discuss in detail why baby kale is not a true microgreen by identifying the characteristics of both baby vegetables and microgreens and the different health benefits of both.

What is baby kale?

The Colorado Integrated Food Safety Centre of Excellence identifies kale as a leafy green like lettuce, swiss chard and spinach. Baby kale is exactly what it sounds like, a younger version of kale, specifically the delicate leaves of the immature kale plant.

There are many varieties of kale and most can be harvested when the leaves and stems are young, mild and tender. When you take a bite, you might get a hint of pepper, just like the flavor you get when you taste arugula.

Some people don’t like mature kale with its tough and bitter leaves. With a lighter flavor and texture, baby kale is a fantastic alternative.

How do you eat baby kale?

Baby kale is relatively new on the commercial market and has been promoted as a chewy and tasty addition to fresh salad mixes. It’s at its tastiest when eaten raw and combined with other leafy greens such as baby chard, arugula, spinach, and lettuce both red and green.

It’s also great as a pizza topping or as a cooked replacement for your favorite spinach dishes such as enchiladas, quiche and lasagna.

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are young vegetable greens that are harvested immediately after the cotyledon (the embryonic leaf in seed-bearing plants) has developed. They are younger and smaller than baby greens like baby kale and are usually cut between 7 and 14 days after germination.

The United States Department of Agriculture recognizes ‘microgreens’ as a marketing term to describe tiny, tender and edible greens such as vegetables and herbs. With microgreens, you’re more likely to get a stronger, more concentrated taste than when you eat the adult version.

It’s easy to confuse microgreens with shoots, but they are quite different. Microgreens are smaller than younger than baby vegetables but they are larger and older than shoots, which is the young part of the plant that rises from the ground.

What are the different types of microgreens?

You can harvest microgreens from most types of vegetables and herbs but some are more popular than others. For the United States Department of Agriculture, plants that are easy to germinate and quick to grow are the best candidates.

You can divide micro greens into the family they belong to:

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

How do you eat microgreens?

Microgreens can be eaten in many different ways and you are limited only by your imagination. Rich in flavor, they are a welcome dash of color and an excellent source of nutrition.

Originally only seen in up-scale restaurants in the 1980s as a classy garnish to salads and soups, they are now a trendy staple in sandwiches and wraps, pizza, pasta and even healthy juices and smoothies.

You can’t fail with microgreens. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even swap out the spinach in your quiche with some tasty sunflower sprouts or add some pea shoots to your savory breakfast pancakes.

People’s tastes vary but some microgreens are more popular than others, thanks to their taste, what they look like and how they are grown.

You’re more likely to find sunflower, broccoli, kale, arugula and basil at your local health food store but might struggle to source the less popular radish, mustard and buckwheat.

Baby kale versus microgreens. Which is better for you?

Both baby vegetables like baby kale and microgreens have well-known health benefits. The information listed below might help you decide which you think has the greater health benefits.

The health benefits of baby kale

A 2014 study in the Journal of Chromatography A found that baby greens such as baby kale have a higher concentration of antioxidants than their older counterparts. This makes them beneficial for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer.

Baby kale is also rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron and Vitamins A, C and K1 and it can help lower your cholesterol levels. But to get the health benefits of Vitamin K1, you should try to eat it with some natural fats like avocado which helps your body absorb it.

The health benefits of microgreens

ARS plant physiologist Gene Lester and his team of scientists analyzed different microgreens for their key nutrients. They found that their nutritional quality varied widely depending on the type of microgreen, as measured by the concentration of essential vitamins and carotenoids. The vitamins they measured were:

  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • Vitamin E (tocopherols)
  • Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
  • Vitamin A precursor beta-carotene.

The microgreens that packed the biggest punch in terms of vitamin concentration were red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth and daikon radish.

Amazingly, the scientists found that in general, microgreens can contain levels of vitamins and carotenoids that are up to five times greater than the mature versions of the plant!

Amazingly, the scientists found that in general, microgreens can contain levels of vitamins and carotenoids that are up to five times greater than the mature versions of the plant!

Baby kale and microgreens: the best of both worlds

Baby kale might not be a microgreen but it sure packs a nutritional punch. In fact, both baby kale and microgreens are a great way to up your vitamin intake. Tasty and versatile, they can be cooked into your favorite meal or eaten raw in a scrumptious salad.