Microgreens are a niche product, often branded the ‘caviar’ of superfoods, due to their potent levels of vitamins and antioxidants, which are an estimated 40 times higher than those found in mature vegetables. The elevated price tag is due not only to their nutrient-rich properties, but also to their intense flavor, making these greens a popular choice amongst celebrity chefs, fashionable ‘foodies’, upscale restaurants, and high-end stores.
This article will continue to explore why microgreens are so expensive and examine why they have yet to filter into the mainstream. It will also discuss the benefits of eating them instead of regular vegetables, in addition to outlining how to source and serve them, as well as looking at their many health-giving properties.
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens, otherwise known as ‘vegetable confetti’, are young green vegetables which grow between 1-3 inches tall. These tiny nutrient-dense portions of veggies, herbs, and plants contain a potent, aromatic flavor and are reputedly healthier than eating fully matured greens.
Are Microgreens The Same As Bean Sprouts?
No, it’s a common misconception that microgreens are the same as beansprouts or alfalfa. Sprouts are young seedlings grown in water, which are typically eaten whole within a few days, whereas microgreens fall somewhere between a sprout and a baby green and can be harvested then stored.
When Did Microgreens Become So Popular?
Microgreens emerged onto the food market some 20 plus years ago in 1980’s California, and were first popularized by high-end chefs who grew micro versions of vegetables, herbs, and plants which they used as a flavor-enhancing garnish on their food.
Are Microgreens Grown In The Same Way As Regular Vegetables?
Microgreens are grown in the same way as regular plants and vegetables, the main difference being that they are harvested earlier, approximately 1-3 weeks after the seeds are sown, meaning the plants grow no higher than 5 cm.
Are Microgreens A Popular Choice Amongst Farmers?
Dedicated microgreens farms have become a popular start-up proposition for new urban farmers who have realized they can earn a decent revenue relatively quickly whilst using a much smaller vertical space than traditional farming and other specialty food crops.
Are Microgreens More Costly Than Regular Vegetables?
Yes, like any organic, unprocessed food microgreens pack a punch when it comes to the price tag. They are generally considered a luxury food item as on average microgreens cost up to 20 times more than regular vegetables, weighing in at between $25 and $40 per pound.
Will Microgreens Eventually Become More Affordable?
Yes, but right now they are still an introductory product which has yet to become mainstream. Since there are also far less microgreen growers than traditional farmers, the price point remains fairly high as it is delineated by niche demand, lower sales, higher cost per customer, and fewer competitors.
Are Microgreens A More Sustainable Crop?
Yes, they are grown without herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, and require fewer resources than traditional farming taking the pressure off already overstretched farmlands. Since 100% of microgreens are sellable, they also produce less waste per crop.
Why Are Microgreens So Fashionable Amongst ‘Foodies’?
‘Foodies’ are always on the look-out for new products to try and different ways to maximize the flavor and health-giving properties of their food. They tend to eat and shop in independent restaurants and stores and are therefore more receptive to new trends and ideas.
Are Microgreens Just An Expensive Fad Or A Valued Product?
They may well be a passing culinary food trend in restaurants, but since their health-giving properties and flavor are undeniable, many people have now started buying seeds to grow at home so as to incorporate more nutritional content into their diet.
Where Can I buy Microgreens?
Microgreens are not yet widely available in most regular supermarkets, but can be purchased in specialized stores, upscale restaurants, and organic suppliers. Alternatively, you can buy the seeds to grow your own microgreens at home.
How Do I Grow My Own Microgreens At Home?
Microgreens can easily be grown all year round either indoors or outdoors. All you need is good quality seeds, and a decent growing medium such as: perlite, peat, or vermiculite, or a single-use growing mat.
Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Growing Microgreens?
No, they are generally deemed safe, as the potential for bacteria growth is much less than in sprouts, meaning any risk of catching food poisoning from Salmonella or E-Coli is minimal. Just make sure you always purchase seeds from a reputable seller.
Why Exactly Are Microgreens So Good For You?
A microgreen usually contains 5 to 40 times more nutrients than a mature crop, and is packed with concentrated vitamins and minerals. Just like full-grown vegetables, they are also low in energy; approximately 120kJ or 29kcal per 100g, according to US data sources.
Can Microgreens Help Prevent Disease?
According to Healthline, the powerful properties of the many nutrients and plant compounds contained in microgreens may help reduce the risk of serious diseases such as: heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.
What Is The Best Way To Eat Microgreens?
You can add microgreens to protein shakes or smoothies, but in general they are used as a flavorsome garnish or topping. Once they transition from being used as ‘vegetable confetti’ to a main ingredient in cooking, the price should eventually drop and they will become more affordable.
Can I Store Microgreens In The Same Way As Regular Vegetables?
In order to keep your microgreens fresh and crunchy, refrigerate fresh greens in a Ziploc bag or plastic container (do not use glass as this environment is too wet and can make the greens turn mushy), or dehydrate them first, then refrigerate them.
Can Children Eat Microgreens?
Yes, according to Microgreens Corner, they are an ideal way to encourage children to eat greens, as they look more appetizing and you don’t have to eat as much of them. A spoonful of microgreens is much more nutritional than a full serving of most regular vegetables.