Microgreens are safer than sprouts because of the bacteria that can form in the water that sprouts are soaked in. Microgreens can still be unsafe due to fungus and mold but it is much less likely because they are not in a moist, wet environment.
Follow this guide to learn all about the safety of microgreens and sprouts!
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are the seedlings of edible herbs, vegetables, and flowers. They grew in popularity in the culinary world of San Francisco in the 1980’s but are now widely available.
Microgreens can have up to 40% more nutrients than their full-grown counterparts, according to Urban Cultivator. They are packed full of vitamin C, E, and K, as well as beta-carotene and lutein.
What are sprouts?
Sprouts have been used in Chinese food for over five millenia and have recently gained a following in the West. Sprouts of different plants all look similar, yet they all have different health benefits.
Sprouts are young plants that are harvested a few days after germination. Sprouts contain a lot of beta-carotene, folate, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
What is the difference between microgreens and sprouts?
One main difference between microgreens and sprouts is how they are grown. Sprouts are germinated in water while microgreens are grown in soil or hydroponically.
You eat the leaves and stems of microgreens, while you eat the seeds and tiny stems of sprouts.
Microgreens take roughly one to three weeks to mature, while sprouts take under a week.
Microgreens are usually used as a garnish due to their intense flavor. Sprouts are more mild and are often used for their crunchy texture.
Are microgreens safe to eat?
Microgreens are typically safe to consume. You avoid eating the roots because roots have the highest risk of mold. Cooking microgreens makes them even safer to consume.
Microgreens are safest when their seeds are sanitized before planting. This reduces the risk of mold and gets rid of any chemicals that are coating the seed.
Microgreens go bad if they are planted too closely together, if there is excess moisture, or if they have mold or fungus.
Are sprouts safe to eat?
According to the National Health Service of the UK, the main bacteria found on sprouts are Salmonella and E. coli. Other bacteria have also been occasionally associated with illnesses caused by sprouts.
Sprouts are more dangerous than other fresh produce because they are grown in moist, warm conditions. This encourages the growth of bacteria.
The Food Standards Agency says that sprouts are safe to eat raw if they are labelled as “ready to eat.” If the packaging does not have this label, the sprouts should be cooked thoroughly.
Consume sprouts within two days.
What contaminates sprouts?
In a study led by Kevin Allen, he found that in 44 samples of packaged sprouts, roughly 80% of them had numerous microorganisms living in them. This is due to the moist and warm growing conditions.
According to the study, almost all samples had enterococci bacteria including E. faecalis and E. faecium. One sample had E. coli.
It is believed that the contamination happens for two reasons: contaminated seeds and unsafe facilities.
Seeds can get contaminated if they were grown in manure. Likewise, if the growing conditions are too warm in a facility, bacteria will grow.
How can you tell if your microgreens are bad?
The main reason microgreens go bad is because of fungus or mold. There are many telltale signs of infected microgreens.
One sign is if you can visibly see mold, which will look like a spiderweb on the growing media.
Another sign is if your seeds are taking a long time to germinate.
The third sign is if the leaves are yellow.
If your microgreens are growing too close to each other, this can encourage mold and fungus.
If your plants are very weak or keep falling over, they may be infected.
If there is an uneven growth pattern in your microgreens, it can be a sign that some of them are infected.
How can you tell if your sprouts are bad?
The three ways to tell if sprouts are bad are their smell, taste, or signs of mold.
Sprouts should be relatively odorless, or maybe even a bit earthy. If they smell sour, fishy, or pungent, they have gone bad. Wash them thoroughly before smelling them because it might just be a thin coating and not the sprout itself that smells bad.
Any fuzzy clumps of mold mean your sprouts are bad. Sprouts should be shiny and slightly reflective. If there is a layer covering that shine or if there is white fuzz, do not eat the sprouts.
Sprouts should barely taste like anything and should be crunchy. If they are sour, soggy, or chewy, they are bad.
How do you grow microgreens safely at home?
If you follow these steps, your microgreens should be safe to eat. But you should still check for any signs of spoilage before you eat them.
- Soak the seeds for 6 hours. Add a teaspoon of food-safe hydrogen peroxide to rid the seeds of any chemicals.
- Soak the growing mat and put it in a container.
- Spread out the seeds. Make sure they are spread evenly.
- Cover the seeds and place them by a window until they sprout.
- Be sure to remove the lid once they sprout to avoid mold.
- Water daily. They are ready to harvest once they show their first true set of leaves.
How do you grow sprouts safely at home?
There are some rules to follow when you grow sprouts if you don’t want them to spoil.
- Use clean, filtered water.
- Keep sprouts moist but don’t have any standing water in your jar.
- Rinse your sprouts every 6 hours, especially at warmer temperatures.
- Be extra vigilant when it is humid.
- Keep seeds dry when you are storing them. Don’t rinse them before storage; only rinse before use.
- Consume sprouts that you’ve grown within a couple of days.
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.