Microgreens are all the rage these days. They are young plants, more mature than sprouts but less than baby greens. Popular varieties include broccoli, pea, bean, arugula, cilantro, basil, beet, kale, mustard, and radish.
Microgreens are typically pre-soaked for up to 24 hours to pull seeds out of dormancy, transferred to a viable medium, and then harvested in as little as 5 days. Pre-soaking allows most of these seeds to germinate in just a day or two thus bringing the plant to harvest much sooner.
Microgreen varieties grow quickly and usually form the first few real leaves while still maintaining the tender shoots. They are nutrient dense and pack a lot of flavor. And unlike sprouts which are consumed roots and all, microgreens are grown in a medium like a soil-less seed starting mix and are harvested by cutting above the soil line.
Why are microgreens so popular?
Aside from their short time to harvest, microgreens are becoming more popular as flavor agents. They are packed with nutrients and are being used by chefs and home cooks to add a kick of flavor to a wide range of recipes.
There are four broad categories of microgreens:
- Shoots and tendrils – peas, sunflower, corn shoots
- Spicy greens – radish, mustard, arugula
- Tender greens – broccoli, spinach, beet, kale, chard, mache
- Micro herbs – mint, basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, chives
What is the nutritional value of microgreens?
Microgreens are typically harvested with full cotyledon leaves, a stem that is 1-3 inches long and the first set of partially developed true leaves. These tasty little greens were first used for their flavor and texture but recent studies (2014, USDA Agricultural Research Service) have shown that they do more than hold their own in terms of nutrition as well.
In general, microgreens contained considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature plant counterparts, an indication that microgreens may be worth the trouble of delivering them fresh during their short lives.
You can read more about microgreens and their backstory here.
How can microgreens be used?
Each type of microgreen can be used for a specific function. The spicy greens add a spicy or peppery kick. Shoots and tendrils make perfect garnishes. And micro herbs can be used to impart specific flavors.
For example, arugula can be added to fresh green salads to add a peppery kick. Or add broccoli greens to a sandwich for a subtle flavor, a mild crunch, and tons of cancer fighting micronutrients.
There are countless ways to use microgreens and the best part is that with just a little effort you can have a constant supply of them!