Being extremely rich in nutrients and antioxidants, microgreens are highly beneficial plants compounds. They can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and boost mental and physical health.
In this article, we will highlight the many qualities of microgreens and will learn how to make this superfood part of our everyday life to enjoy its beneficial properties.
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are seedlings of full-sized vegetables and herbs harvested less than 14 days from their germination. Since the 80s, they have been widely used by many chefs to decorate their creations thanks to their dainty appearance and burst of taste. Over the last decade, the number of microgreens grew exponentially, and we can now enjoy little under 100 different varieties.
Microgreens, macro nutrients?
Despite their tiny size and whimsical appearance, microgreens are stuffed with a lot of nutrients. Many studies, including one conducted by researcher Qin Wand, PhD assistant professor at the University of Maryland, show that the nutrient levels in microgreens are up to 40-fold higher than those found in full-sized vegetables.
The data vary based on the species of microgreens considered, but in general, these small but mighty veggies provide us with a burst of vitamins, C, E, and K, beta-carotene, lutein, and high levels of polyphenols and other antioxidants.
Rich in Minerals
Vitamins are great, but microgreens are also rich in minerals which are fundamental to keeping us healthy and strong. Among the many minerals we can find in the microgreens, we can find:
- Iron, which helps to maintain a strong immune system and increases energy and concentration levels
- Magnesium, promoting bone and cardiovascular health, while helping to manage migraines and anxiety.
- Zinc, which is a mineral essential to promoting beautiful skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Does one microgreen a day keep the doctor away?
Microgreens are rich in polyphenols, which are antioxidants linked to lowering the risk of heart disease. Studies published by the National Institutes of Health, show that microgreens may also lower triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels.
Another advantage of consuming high doses of polyphenols is that they are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, while the substantial level of antioxidants can prevent sugar from entering cells, decreasing the risks of diabetes. Antioxidants also help the body to get rid of free radicals that can lead to cell damage and subsequent diseases, including cancer.
What about the taste?
You will be surprised that something so small can taste so good! Microgreens are not only packed with nutrients, but they are also an explosion of taste in your mouth. They generally have a similar taste as the mature plant, but often they surprise us with a wider and more structured aftertaste.
Can I grow my own microgreens?
Microgreens are relatively easy to grow, and they generally thrive indoors if enough light is available. There are many starter kits for sale, they provide everything you need to grow your own microgreens: seeds, trays, soil, and most even include an artificial light. If you are lucky enough to have a south-facing window available, you won’t need any artificial light and your mighty friends will be ready to be harvested within two or three weeks.
No soil? No problem!
Microgreens are often cultivated using hydroponic planting. In total absense of soil, these microgreens will absorb the nutrients they need to grow from the water. Most microgreens will thrive with a hydrophobic system, however, there are some exceptions which include peas, beets, cilantro, lentils, to name a few.
Is it harvest time?
How do you know if your microgreens are ready to be harvested? Once they sprout their first couple of leaves and they are about 2-3 inches tall, they are ready to be enjoyed. To harvest your microgreens, you just need a pair of scissors: snip the veggies just above the soil line and you are all set.
Remember to only cut what you are going to consume right away, even if microgreens can be stored in the refrigerator, they are much healthier and flavorful right after they have been harvested.
What happens after the microgreens are harvested?
Many types of microgreens will regrow many times after being cut, that includes peas, kale, and beans to name a few. However, the majority of microgreens do not regrow and you will need to replant them. The good news is that it will generally only take 2-3 weeks to get a new harvest.
How to serve them?
Thanks to their vibrant colors, microgreens are wonderful to decorate salads soups, or any other dish. They also provide a vitamin and mineral boost to any smoothie without adding empty calories and are a perfect alternative to lettuce as a tasty side dish.
Home many kinds of microgreens are there?
There are so many varieties of microgreens that it would be impossible to name them all. However, the most popular kinds can be grouped into 6 main plants families:
- Cucurbitaceae : squash, melon, cucumber
- Amarullidaceae: garlic, leek, onion
- Brassicaceae: broccoli, watercress, radish, cauliflower
- Apiaceae: carrot, celery, dill
- Asteraceae: lettuce, radicchio, endive
- Amaranthaceae: beet, spinach
Are microgreens safe?
Generally speaking, microgreens are safe to be consumed. They require less humidity and lower temperatures to sprout, and these conditions discourage the growth of bacteria. That said, it’s always wise to wash your microgreens carefully before eating them, and buy the seeds from reputable companies. Also, always check that the trays and soils used don’t contain any toxic substances.
Sprouts or Microgreens?
Sprouts are the young version of microgreens. The main difference is that sprouts are consumed whole, from the roots to the shoots while you only eat the part of the microgreens that emerges from the soil. Also, sprouts generally have a mild flavor as they are harvested at an earlier stage, and they are often used for their texture. Microgreen, as we already said, are packed with flavor despite their tiny appearance
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.