An Introduction to Microgreens
Microgreens are edible seedlings including vegetables and herbs, which have been used, primarily in the restaurant industry. They are used as a nutrition supplement, a visual enhancement, and a flavor and texture enhancement. They are harvested after the sprout stage of harvestation; just after the cotyledon leaves have developed with one set of true leaves when the plant is 1-3 inches in height and 7-21 days old (immature stage). Microgreens are composed of three parts: a central stem, cotyledon leaf or leaves, and a pair of young true leaves. Microgreens vary in taste, which can range from neutral to spicy, slightly sour or even bitter, depending on the variety. They have a flavor which is generally considered strong and concentrated.
Difference between Sprouts and Microgreens
In the case of sprouts, the harvest time is earlier than microgreens
Microgreens are grown in soil or soil-like materials such as peat moss. Sprout seeds are soaked in water, usually for eight hours and then drained. The sprouting process occurs in dark or very low light conditions. Microgreens are planted with very low seed density compared to sprout processing.
A sprout consists of seed, root, and stem. On the other hand, microgreens are harvested without the roots.
How Microgreens are grown
Fill container with soil and water lightly. Sprinkle the seed of choice on top of the soil as evenly as possible. Lightly mist seeds with water and cover container with a plastic lid. Check tray daily and mist water as needed to keep the seeds moist. A couple of days after the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic lid to expose them to light. After 10–14 days, the microgreens should be ready to harvest.
In the industry commercially
Seeds are grown on large trays lined with absorbent growing mats. Seeds are sprinkled over the tray and grown covered for the first few days. Once the sprouts have reached the desired length the cover is removed. Sprouts are allowed to green under the fluorescent light and grown until the true leaves appear.
Types of Microgreens
Microgreens can be grown from different types of seeds. The most popular varieties are produced using seeds from the following plant families:
- Brassicaceae family: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish and arugula
- Asteraceae family: Lettuce, endive, chicory and radicchio
- Apiaceae family: Dill, carrot, fennel and celery
- Amaryllidaceae family: Garlic, onion, leek
- Amaranthaceae family: Amaranth, quinoa swiss chard, beet and spinach
- Cucurbitaceae family: Melon, cucumber and squash
Health Benefits of Microgreens
- Eating vegetables is linked to a lower risk of many diseases
- Microgreens contain phytonutrients
- Microgreens are juvenile seedlings that contain large concentration of vitamins, minerals and other higher health-giving phytonutrients compared to mature leaves
- Young lettuce seedling after 7 days of germination contains highest total phenolic concentration and antioxidant capacity
- Red cabbage, garnet amaranth, green Daikon and radish microgreens contain highest concentration of Vitamin E, C and K
- All the nutrients that are packed in microgreens are essential for skin
- Microgreen contain crystalline compounds having a wide range of health benefits such as an estrogen stabilizer DIM (diindolylmethane) which is necessary for both men and women