Microgreens need no introduction. Reckoned as young vegetables or micro herbs, microgreens are approximately 2.5–7.5 cm (1–3 inches) tall. Rich in nutrients, they have an aromatic flavor. Each variety of microgreens contains a different texture or flavor and can be used in diversified ways. However, not all microgreens are edible. A few microgreens belonging to the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, release toxic compounds harmful to human health when grown as microgreens.
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens, also known as micro herbs, are germinating seedlings generally harvested between 7 to 14 days when the first true leaves appear. Many microgreens are harvested before the first true leaf forms. They include turnips, broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, and many more. Other microgreens such as mustards should be harvested after the first true leaves form. Most microgreens can be grown from seeds indoors. Despite their tiny size, they are touted as a superfood due to their superior nutritional content.
Interestingly, microgreens neither belong to the sprout category nor the baby green category. Sprouts have a shorter growth cycle ranging from 2–7 days; microgreens, on the other hand, are generally harvested 7–21 days post-germination.
Types of Microgreens
Many types of seeds can be used to grow microgreens. The most well-known varieties of microgreens can be grown from the seeds of the below-mentioned plant families-
- Brassicaceae family: Broccoli, arugula, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, and radish.
- Asteraceae family: Lettuce, chicory, endive, and radicchio
- Apiaceae family: Carrot, dill, celery, and fennel.
- Amaryllidaceae family: Onion, leek, garlic
- Amaranthaceae family: Quinoa, swiss chard, amaranth, spinach, and beet
- Cucurbitaceae family: Cucumber, melon, and squash
Cereals such as oats, rice, corn, barley, and wheat, and legumes like beans, chickpeas, and lentils, are also sometimes considered microgreens.
Depending on the variety, the taste of microgreens ranges from slightly sour, spicy, or neutral to spicy, or even bitter. They have an intense and concentrated flavor.
Microgreens are Nutritious
Microgreens are packed with nutrients. Though the nutrient contents vary as per the variety, most microgreens are rich in minerals like zinc, potassium, iron, copper, and magnesium. Additionally, they are also a good source of beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants.
What’s more, as their nutrient content is strong, they often contain a superior level of phytochemicals – including vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta carotene than the similar quantity of mature greens.
In fact, as per comparison research of microgreens vs. more mature greens, it was found that levels of nutrients in microgreens can be approximately up to nine times superior to the levels found in mature greens.
Health Benefits of Microgreens
Eating vegetables is often linked to a lower risk of developing and succumbing to disease since vegetables contain high amounts of minerals, vitamins, and beneficial plant compounds. As mentioned earlier, microgreens contain either similar or superior amounts of these nutrients compared to mature greens. Owing to the same, they may reduce the risk related to one of the below-mentioned diseases:
- Heart disease: Rich in polyphenols(a class of antioxidants) associated with a lower risk related to heart disease, microgreens are known to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
- Alzheimer’s disease: When it comes to lowering the risk related to Alzheimer’s disease, integrating microgreens into the diet may help as they are rich in antioxidants and contain a superior level of polyphenols.
- Diabetes: Antioxidants help trim down the sort of stress that may prevent sugar from entering into cells. As per lab studies, a specific type of microgreens known as fenugreek seems to boost cellular sugar uptake approximately by 25–44%.
- Certain types of cancers: Antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits, especially the ones that are rich in polyphenols, help lower the risk related to some types of cancer.
However, the number of studies conducted to measure the direct impact of microgreens is limited. Despite this, there is no denial of the fact that microgreens do offer health benefits.
Is Eating Microgreens Risky?
The intake of microgreens is generally considered to be safe. Though, the possibility of food poisoning cannot be denied if microgreens are grown in unhygienic conditions. However, the possibility of bacteria growth is much lesser in microgreens when compared with sprouts. The reason is that microgreens require slightly less humid and warm conditions than sprouts do; therefore, there is a lesser possibility of growth of germs and bacteria.
Another reason is that only the stems and leaves of microgreens are consumed, which are exposed to sunlight and hence do not contain harmful bacteria. While on the other hand, the seed and root are consumed in the sprouts, and since sprouts grow in a damp environment, they might develop bacteria.
How to Include Microgreens in Your Diet?
Versatile in their uses, they make a perfect addition to a variety of dishes such as a sandwich, salad, soup, wraps, and more. They can also be added to juices and smoothies. Recently, the trend of wheatgrass microgreen juice is witnessing soaring popularity amongst health-conscious individuals. Another popular option is to use them as seasoning ingredients to enhance the nutritional value of omelets, pizzas, curries, soups, and other warm dishes.
A major difference between sprouts and microgreens is that while the sprouts are grown without the use of soil, microgreens require soil to grow. In simple words, microgreens are the tiny sprout of vegetable seeds. So any sort of seed that grows into a green leafy vegetable can be harvested as microgreens.
There are many reasons that microgreens are popular. They are not just flavorful and sustainable, but they contain a variety of essential nutrients. Also, microgreens are relatively easy to grow due to minimal maintenance, and also they do not require much moisture like other seeds.
Growing Microgreens at Home
Growing microgreens is not just less time-consuming but rewarding as well. They are ready for harvesting a few days after the seeds are sown. Also, they do not require much space. They can be grown indoors as well, even near a window. Those keen to grow microgreens outside need to ensure that the microgreens are protected from pests and extreme temperatures.
Packed with an array of nutrients, microgreens can be grown indoors as well outdoors and offer plenty of health benefits. Flavourful and cost-effective, they reduce the risk related to certain life-threatening diseases and are worth adding to your diet.