Microgreens have been around for quite some time now. You can find them in some health food stores and specialty farmers markets and even in large supermarkets where they have recently become available. Microgreens are known to pack large varieties of flavor in small quantities and as a result, they are very popular.
Another reason why most people love microgreens is that one can easily incorporate them into their dish. You can either mix several microgreens to come up with a delicately textured and flavored salad. You can also choose to use a few microgreens, maybe one or two to give your plate a final touch.
In addition to being rich in strong flavors, microgreens are known for their great health benefits.
- What is the History of Microgreens?
- So, What Are Microgreens?
- Growing and Harvesting Microgreens
- Difference between Microgreens, Sprouts and Baby Greens
- Different Types of Microgreens and How to Grow Them
- The Nutritional Properties of Microgreens
- Benefits of Microgreens
- 5 Exciting New Ways You Can Use Microgreens
What is the History of Microgreens?
What are microgreens? Well, there is still quite a number of people who are yet to hear about microgreens. The reason for this is because Microgreens haven’t been around for a very long period of time. Microgreens originated from San Francisco in the ’80s when they started appearing on chefs’ menus. However, it wasn’t until the 90’s that they gained popularity. The word “Microgreen” was first used in 1998.
Its popularity then began to spread East and now microgreens are grown all over the United States and even in many other countries. Today, there are several varieties of microgreens that are grown. However, the first varieties to be grown included beets, arugula, basil, kale, and cilantro. The number of microgreen varieties being grown today has increased and continues to do so.
Some of these microgreen varieties include broccoli, mizuna, pak choi, purple cabbage, and mustard. It was around 2010 that microgreens gained popularity in the food world. Around this period, microgreens began appearing at most grocery stores around the world. Food enthusiasts alike now had the chance to try something new and enjoy these microgreens at home.
In 2012, microgreens finally got the boost they needed to become mainstay food in people’s diet. Researchers in the US finally got interested in microgreens and did some research on the nutritional make-up of microgreens and their shelf life. The researchers tested over 25 varieties of microgreens.
This research made microgreens gain the attention of most media outlets like the Huffington Post and the National Public Radio. Soon, everyone became interested in the newly discovered high nutritional values that microgreens had. The only shortcomings that microgreens have are their shorter shelf life.
However, researchers continue to come up with ways they can extend their shelf life. One of such ways is by optimizing microgreen packaging and increasing their exposure to light.
So, What Are Microgreens?
You must have been to a restaurant and must have come across these little greens stylishly topping your dish as a salad. They are what are known as microgreens. They are now available in every café as a result of their huge popularity. Many chefs have actually incorporated microgreens into their dishes.
These tiny and edible greens that grow from vegetables and herbs seeds pack a nutritional punch and are absolutely delicious. Since their introduction, the varieties of microgreens have grown immensely. Today there are over 25 varieties of microgreens. Apart from their nutrition, microgreens also give dishes necessary pop due to their visual appeal that is as a result of their delicateness and vibrancy.
Microgreens are baby green vegetables that are normally harvested immediately after sprouting. They are usually harvested around 7 to 14 days when they are about 1 to 3 inches tall. Microgreens are primarily used in enhancing the attractiveness and taste of dishes in finer dining restaurants.
Growing and Harvesting Microgreens
Microgreens can be grown on soil or any other soil substitute. They require sunlight for optimal growth and are usually harvested before they are 14 days old. Microgreens are usually added to salads or used to garnish sandwiches and soups. You can also use them to make juices and smoothies.
Since microgreens are usually harvested before they grow to their full potential, they are about 1 to 3 inches tall. Many people love them because they grow very fast and can be grown throughout the year.
Cultivating them is not also expensive. You can even grow them on your apartment’s sunny windowsill. The health benefits that these tasty, miniature greens have are greater than those that their fully-grown carbon parents have. Even the best things can come in smaller packages and this is true with microgreens.
Harvesting them when they are smaller gives them a nutritional character that is potent and an intense flavor
Difference between Microgreens, Sprouts and Baby Greens
This world of herbs and small leafy vegetables can be quite confusing to most people. You may wonder what the difference is between microgreens, sprouts and baby greens. Let us review them for you so that you can understand them better.
Sprouts germinate from seeds and are grown in the dark or water without a growing medium like soil. To grow sprouts, seeds are inserted inside containers which are then closed. Due to the high levels of humidity in such an enclosed environment, the seeds usually germinate quickly. The sprout is then eaten within the first 48 hours. The sprout is usually composed of underdeveloped leaves, stem, root and the seed, all of which are eaten.
Once a sprout grows its first leaves, known as the cotyledons, the cotyledon stage gets underway. This stage starts at around day 5. The cotyledon leaves are not always the same as the plant’s true leaves and are shed once photosynthesis starts to take place. As the plant continues to develop, it enters the microgreen stage. During this stage, the characteristics of every plant begin to show.
For microgreens to grow, they require nutrients, light, and a growing medium. Microgreens are usually harvested between day 7 to day 14. In other words, they are seedlings harvested before they can grow and become larger plants.
Baby greens are similar to microgreens in that they are also young seedlings. They also require nutrients, a growing medium and light to thrive. However, baby greens are a bit older as compared to microgreens.
They are usually harvested between 20 to 40 days after they have germinated. This means that they have a longer growth cycle than microgreens and sprouts. By the time they are harvested, they have developed several sets of true leaves.
Different Types of Microgreens and How to Grow Them
There are so many varieties of microgreens, ranging from vegetables to herbs. Here are some of the most popular types of microgreens and how you can grow them.
This is a delicate microgreen which performs better in warmer conditions with indirect light. Amaranth seeds can grow in soil and even hydroponically. Amaranth is usually tiny and thin and contains strong flavor. However, its flavor is far less spicy as compared to that of mustard. It can serve as a great addition to any salad due to its striking colors.
Amaranth seeds take between 2 to 3 days to germinate. You don’t have to pre-soak their seeds before you grow them. Once the seeds have sprouted, they are harvested when they are between 8 to 12 days old.
Arugula belongs to the same family as broccoli. It is also closely related to kale, radish, and cauliflower. Also known as rocket or rucola, arugula usually grows to lengths of 20 to 100 cm. This leafy green plant is usually packed with lots of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Arugula is very integral in combating free radicals in the body.
To grow arugula, you need a suitable growth medium like soil or hydroponic. You don’t need to presoak the seeds before growing them. Arugula seeds take between 1 to 2 days to germinate and are harvested when they are 6 to 8 days old. They are cabbage-like and are known for their peppery flavor.
The sweet basil exists in different varieties. However, the purple basil is the most colorful and popular basil variety. Basil seeds get sticky when they are wet hence you don’t need to presoak them. Although basil can do well in soil, hydroponic is its most preferred growth medium since it does well in such conditions.
Basil is a slow grower and takes 4 to 5 days for its seeds to germinate. Its ideal harvest time is when it is 10 to 12 days old. However, if you grow it in the soil, then you will have to wait for 16 days to harvest it. Purple basil can make for a colorful garnish due to its purple and green highlights.
Barley is one of the easiest microgreens to grow. They also grow fast and can be harvested several times. To grow barley, you first need to wash and then soak the seeds for 8 hours. You can then plant the seed in soil or grow them hydroponically. Barley seeds take 2 to 3 days to germinate and are harvested when they are 6 to 9 days old.
For barley microgreens to do well, you need to water them well and ensure that you don’t flood them. Barley is bright green and is known for its tender and fresh texture and sweet flavor.
Beets are closely related to chard. It is one of the slowest growers among the microgreens family. This slow growth is mainly due to the fact that beets seeds are contained in a seed capsule that contains several seeds. This makes it harder to evenly spread its seeds when growing it.
When you want to grow beets, you first have to presoak its seeds in cold water for 4 to 10 hours. The soil is its preferred growth medium and the seeds take 11 to 21 days to fully grow and mature and be ready for harvesting. You will know when your beets are ready for harvesting when they develop open leaves that are green in color with vibrant red stems. Beets have a sweet and earthy flavor.
It is a fast grower and is very easy to grow. As a result, it is one of the most common microgreens. Broccoli seeds can be grown in soil and even in hydroponics. Broccoli seeds need 2 to 3 days to germinate and are usually harvested when they are 8 to 10 days old.
When they are ready for harvest, they grow into thin white stems with a green top and purple stems. Broccoli is loved for its fresh cabbage flavor and its tremendous health benefits.
Buckwheat seeds have to be presoaked in cold water for 12 to 24 hours before you can grow them. You can then plant them in soil or hydroponic. However, they do well in the soil as compared to hydroponic since growing them hydroponically is very difficult. When ready for harvesting, buckwheat develops leafy green tops with stems that are red and yellow in color.
To grow buckwheat, once you have soaked the seeds, you should then spread them over the soil. For optimal growth, you have to prepare the soil first by tamping it gently so that it can flatten. You should then spread the seeds evenly on the soil and tamp them gently so that the seeds are in contact with the soil.
You should thoroughly mist the seeds twice a day. You should use a humidity dome to cover the seeds for 3 or 4 days before you can expose them to sunlight. Buckwheat contains a lot of vitamins like Vitamin C, B and K. It has a citrus-like-flavor.
It is also a slow grower. Growing it is difficult and is therefore not suitable to grow if you are a beginner. Celery seeds grow best in hydroponics. They require up to 2 weeks to germinate and take 5 weeks to be harvested. Celery seeds require a lot of attention to grow since you will have to mist them twice a day so that they can stay damp. Mature celery greens have a light green color with a celery flavor.
Chives, leeks, onions, and garlic belong to the same family- Amaryllidaceae. Chives are one of the most popularly grown microgreens because it is easy to grow them and can thrive all year-round. They also have a very short harvest time. Micro chives grow into slender leaves which are needle-like and usually have their black seeds still attached to them.
Micro chives are usually around 5 cm long and have a robust flavor. Chives seeds do well in the soil as compared to hydroponic and take between 1 to 2 weeks to germinate. The best time to harvest micro chives is when they are 3 weeks old.
Micro coriander should be grown in the soil since growing them hydroponically is difficult. Its seed is quite slow to germinate since some may take up to a week to emerge from the soil. If you want to grow them, you should sow its seeds on a lightly compacted soil.
You should cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and then tamp very lightly. You should not presoak the seeds if you want better germination. They do well in temperatures below 21 degrees Celsius. When ready for harvesting, Coriander has very leafy tops with long green stems and have a full cilantro flavor.
The Nutritional Properties of Microgreens
It turns out that microgreens are not just suitable for a healthy salad or soup. Research carried out on microgreens have revealed that these tiny and super young green vegetables are superfoods that are packed with several essential health-promoting nutrients.
These young and edible seedlings have impressive nutritional properties. Here are the nutritional properties of microgreens.
1. Vitamin C in Abundance
Young vegetables and herbs are a rich source of vitamin C. This essential vitamin acts as an antioxidant that helps to eliminate free radicals from the body. The lowest quantity of vitamin C that you can find in a young seedling is a whopping 20 milligrams per 100 grams.
Even tomatoes don’t contain such amounts of vitamin C. You can only find 10 milligrams of vitamin C in mature tomatoes. That is half of what microgreens have! Some microgreens such as micro red cabbage have up to 147 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams.
Carotenoids are very important in reducing the risk of diseases such as eye diseases and even cancer. Beta-carotene is one of the most important carotenoids. Microgreens are loaded with high amounts of beta-carotene. Micro-carrots, for example, contains 12 milligrams of beta-carotene per 100 grams.
3. Source of Vitamin E
Alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol, which make up vitamin E, are found in great quantities in microgreens. The leading microgreens in terms of vitamin E levels are Daikon radish. They contain 126 milligrams of vitamin E per 100 grams. A small amount of this microgreen will provide your body with its daily requirement of this essential vitamin.
4. Vitamin K
Studies have shown that once seedlings get exposure to sunlight, they start producing large quantities of vitamin K. This essential vitamin acts as an electron acceptor to help chlorophyll absorb sunlight and produce carbohydrates. In humans, this vitamin helps in blood clotting. It also helps in maintaining strong bones and healthy teeth.
Microgreens contain the highest levels of microgreens. They contain up to 4.1 micrograms of vitamin K per gram. If you want to get the right amount of vitamin K and other essential vitamins required by the body, you should include microgreens in your balanced diet.
Benefits of Microgreens
These tiny green vegetables and herbs pack a lot of flavors and have a lot of nutritional and health benefits. Apart from their tremendous health benefits, microgreens are also capable of adding unexpected beauty and texture to your plates and dishes. Here are some of the benefits of microgreens.
High in Nutrients
Microgreens are dense in nutrients as compared to their fully mature versions. Microgreens have all the important vitamins and minerals that older plants have and efficiently crams these nutrients into smaller packages.
Vegetables usually contain a lot of nutrients in a diverse array. For example, basil, which is a microgreen, is high in vitamins A, C and K. Beets, on the other hand, are loaded with a lot of folate and manganese. The micro versions of these vegetables contain more quantities of these nutrients and will boost your vitamin intake very easily and in a short amount of time.
According to studies that have been conducted on microgreens, they contain up to 40 times more nutrients in terms of weight as compared to their fully mature counterparts. This means that you can get the right amounts of nutrients that you need for optimal health by just adding a few microgreens servings into your diet.
Polyphenols are natural chemicals with powerful antioxidant properties. They are usually found in many foods and play very important roles in our bodies. The body requires antioxidants to prevent harmful free radicals from building up in the body to levels that are toxic. Antioxidants are highly reactive and can damage the cells in our bodies leading to chronic disease.
Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the risk of heart diseases and other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Microgreens have high levels of polyphenols. Microgreens have not only been found to be a rich source of polyphenols but also contain a wide variety of these health-promoting chemicals compared to their mature versions.
Improve Cardio Health
In developed countries like the United States, heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths. It accounts for close to 20% of all deaths in these countries. One of the most effective ways one can help to prevent himself or herself from being at risk of coronary heart disease is by modifying their diets.
Numerous studies that were conducted on microgreens showed that including them in your diet can lower your heart disease risk factors. This means that your risks of developing heart disease will be significantly lowered. Microgreens can also reduce a person’s weight gain by up to 17 percent. It can also slash bad cholesterol in the body by 34 percent.
If you incorporate one serving or two of microgreens into your balanced diet and couple it with regular physical activity, you will be on the right path towards keeping heart conditions at bay.
Lowers Chronic Disease Risks
Vegetables have extensive health benefits. Thanks to microgreens’ impressive polyphenol profile and nutrient levels, eating them have been shown to lower the risks of certain chronic diseases. Increasing the intake of microgreens has been linked to lower risks of inflammations and reduced risks of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes.
Very Convenient and Easy
Microgreens are very popular because growing them is very easy. Many microgreen novice growers enjoy cultivating these micro vegetables and herbs because they are convenient and easy to grow. They grow very fast, with some even being ready for harvest within a week of planting them. You don’t even need to have a full garden or a backyard to grow these nutritious and flavorful greens.
All you will need is soil, seeds, water and a window where your plants can get a little sunlight. Once you have these in place, you are ready to have your own microgreen garden. If you have always been an impatient gardener, then these micro plants are the perfect fit for you.
Can Be Grown Year-Round
The best part about growing microgreens isn’t their convenience, but their ability to grow all year-round. You can grow them anywhere, whether you want to grow them indoors or on your backyard. Since you can grow them anywhere, you don’t have to wait for the right weather to set in so you can start growing them.
During summer, you can grow your microgreens anywhere as long as there is enough natural sunlight. During the seasons where sunlight hours are limited, you can use grow light to help your greens thrive year-round.
Improves Visual Appeal of Dishes
When food is served in front of people, they first “eat” it with their eyes before they actually gobble it down. This is especially true when people decide to eat away from home. Microgreens are very popular with high-end restaurants where they are used to add a little more color to plates to make the dishes more appealing.
For most chefs, achieving a superior look with their dishes is Holy Grail in their kitchens. Microgreens are not only important in giving dishes a superior look but also add tastes and textures to any dish. Having fresh microgreens of all sizes can help you achieve whatever you visualize with your dish in terms of colors and shapes.
Microgreens are known to be so rich in flavors. Three or four leaves of these small greens can give you multiple benefits in balance, color, and texture. Their rich flavors make them versatile for use with any dish. They are very consistent and easy to use. You don’t need any prep with them since you can use them straight from the farm.
You can use them to lighten up your dishes that are otherwise heavy or too dark. Their robust flavors can also be useful in balancing out your lighter dishes. Microgreens can also add incredible flavor to your salads, stews, soups and even your pasta dishes.
Great for Cocktails
You can even use microgreens in the glass. They are great for adding fresh flavor to drinks such as cocktails and mocktails. In fact, the use of microgreens in cocktails is a trend that is on the rise in the United States. It is also becoming a trend in the United Kingdom.
These micro vegetables were thriving in liquid form; in smoothies or in juices. They have now taken a new twist and are now thriving in alcoholic drinks.
5 Exciting New Ways You Can Use Microgreens
Everyone knows how to make great garnish from microgreens. You can use a handful of arugula to transform your dull bowl of stew into an interesting haute cuisine. You can even use two or three reined-veined sorrels to turn your jelly sandwich and peanut butter into a gourmet.
Are you aware that you can use microgreens to achieve so much more? Here are five ways you can use your microgreens.
You have just come back from work and has had a long day at work. The only thing you now crave for is a salad. However, you don’t even have the energy to lift a finger since you are too tired. Fortunately, you remember that you have some microgreens in your refrigerator that you had just bought a few days ago.
Since microgreens are small in size, you don’t need to do any chopping to make a salad. All you need to do is mix them in a bowl and there you have your salad. The best part, you will have new and interesting flavors by mixing different varieties of microgreens together.
Is there any better way you can spruce up your pizza pie? Well, there is. All you need is some itty bitty micro vegetables. The best choices of microgreens for pizzas are micro basil and micro arugula. You can also use pea leaves or sunflower to spice up your pizza. When using micros on your pizza, ensure that you apply them after you have baked your pie.
You can add a punch of flavor to your sandwich using microgreens. The right candidate for your sandwich is radish greens. The best type of sandwich to make using microgreens is a wrap. Here is how you can go about it.
First of all, you will need one tortilla, 1 carrot shaved, half a cup spring mix. You also need healthy radish sprouts and feta cheese crumbles. To make your sandwich, you can spread your tortilla with hummus and then arrange your greens on the tortilla. You can then top up your sandwich with some feta crumbles and then wrap it up well.
You can use any microgreen to make to make your juice or smoothie. However, the champion when it comes to juicing or making smoothies is wheatgrass. It has been around for a long time and has been used to make juices by people who seek to have optimal health.
You can also be creative and mix your wheatgrass juice with other fruits. This can help you cut the green flavor of wheatgrass and give your green juice a nutrient boost.
You must be wondering whether someone can actually bake with microgreens. You are curious to know what can be baked using these little greens. Well, there are several ways you can bake using microgreens. You can add some microgreens to your berry pie to offset the sweetness of your berries in a spicy way.
If you have ever dismissed the increasing popularity of microgreens as just some type of trendy food fads that will fade after some time, then you must have changed your mind by now. Microgreens are no longer reserved only for fancy restaurants and high-end groceries that sell them at high prices.
They have now become more available for anyone that wants to eat healthily and reap from their high nutrition profiles. You don’t even have to buy them in the supermarkets. You can grow them on your own, on your backyard or even indoors. Introducing microgreens into your diet will be easy since these micro-sized vegetables are versatile and can be incorporated into diets in a variety of ways.
Now that you know the different types of microgreens and how to grow them, you can get started on your healthy diet as soon as you can.