The 2 big super-food questions, Microgreens and Sprouts, are they the same? What are microgreens?
Do you remember seeing some chopped small 2-leave sprouts placed on toast in 90’s magazines? Well, I’m sure some of you might! At that time, sprouts were considered an elite food, perfect for photo-shoots, like how caviar is today.
They were not necessarily elite because they were expensive like caviar but, rather due to the innovativeness and the interest pique they created.
In this blog, we cover a few area’s that all have to do with these amazing tiny greens, and hopefully we can get you as obsessed as we are with Microgreens!
For starters, What even are Microgreens?
Microgreens are young vegetable greens, not to be confused with sprouts or shoots. Typically, most microgreens are harvested between 7 to 14days once the cotyledon leaves have developed and just before the crop has grown its set of true leaves to prevent bitter taste, though some varieties such as Dill Microgreens are grown out for longer to achieve a more develop true leave and they do not become bitter. Microgreens are used for and as flavor and texture enhancement, visual aesthetics, and most of all as a nutrition supplement.
They are younger than “baby greens” and older then sprouts. Microgreens are produced from various seeds of vegetables, herbs, and other plants that have edible greens. They range in size from 1 to 3 inches, including the stem and leaves. The cotyledon leaves of microgreens are fully developed and usually, one pair of very small, partially developed true leaves. During harvesting, the stem is cut just above the soil surface using a nice, sharpened knife.
Microgreens can add sweetness or even spiciness to foods depending upon the seed being used to grow. Today they are considered a specialty genre of greens that are starting to make a BIG impact in many people’s homes as they are becoming more commonly used in everyday manners rather than just in restaurants.
FUN FACT: Microgreens are also referred to as “Vegetable Confetti”
Key differences between microgreens and sprouts
At the start of the article, we intentionally mentioned microgreens as sprouts. That is because many people still know them as sprouts and often confuse them with each other. So, before we dive in further, let us do a basic comparison:
- Lighting source is needed for healthy growth.
- Ventilation is needed (we use fans).
- Harvested when the true leaves developed. · Adds pops of vibrant color to food dishes. · Great Addition to add texture.
- They are more flavorful.
- Sprouts are grown in jars using water.
- They do not necessarily require light.
- Can sprout with or without ventilation.
- Ready for use when the seeds sprout.
- Taste is a bit bland but crunchier.
((Now hopefully this basic question is *yeeted out of the window))
Tiny but mighty:
The idea of microgreens originated in the late 80's in San Francisco, California and it's said that microgreens have been grown there since about the mid‑90s. Although interest in microgreens expanded when they were introduced to Californian restaurants by innovative chefs. After some time, they even started getting used in high-end culinary establishments and by the late 1990s they had become popular in the culinary world. And even more so after appearing in haute cuisine again around 2006.
The main marketer at the time that these tiny greens where getting noticed, were restaurant chefs and still continues to be, at least until more people become aware of these magical greens... luckily, we are getting closer to this nowadays as more people have started selling them at their local Farmers Markets and we live in the modern age where we have Social Media to get the word out to its 3.6BILLION users.
But, when Microgreens first started building traction, they were rarely available in direct markets and were only sold in high-end upscale/gourmet grocery stores, as well as in health food stores... which really limited the audience that had access to them.
Initially, a few varieties were offered including beets, cilantro, kale, basil, arugula, and their mixture was called a "Rainbow Mix" because of the vibrant colors. But later, the varieties broadened which introduced even MORE colors, flavors & textures for chefs to top dishes off and give food that extra visual POP!
Today, they are becoming easily available as companies like ours provide tons of FREE and EASY microgreens growing information for anyone to access through our YouTube Channel (Click here) and our other Blogs (Click here).
If you want to grow your own produce for the nutritional benefits, but don’t have the patience to wait a few months before severing them up on your table... Microgreens are perfect for you! They can be grown easily in your home with little to no experience, and quickly… they are probably one of the best vegetables (in our opinion) that you can grow! Growing microgreens yourself means you are in control, and you can grow your crops to be purely organic and highly nutritious compared to trusting your grocery stories produce… which lately hasn’t been looking the best during COVID-19.
The amazing health benefits of Microgreens
Although there are many claims about microgreen’s nutritional abundancy on the internet, this study is the first scientific evaluation of their nutritional content.
A researcher Qin Wang, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland says: “The microgreens were four- to 40-fold more concentrated with nutrients than their mature counterparts”.
Researchers evaluated levels of four groups of vital nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and beta-carotene, in commercially grown microgreens and they were astonished and double, triple checked the results. All these nutrients they had, have all sorts of benefits associated with them. They are extremely important for eyes, skin, and fight cancerous cells too. We’re hoping to see more research and tests done in the near future on microgreens as they grow in popularity!!
More on Microgreens nutrients:
- Microgreens are also rich in copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
- They are rich source of polyphenols which means reduced risk of heart diseases.
- Due to antioxidants, lower risk of diseases like Alzheimer and diabetes.
- Unstable waste molecules are eliminated out of the body.
- Rich fiber content cleanses the stomach.
- There is one thing we need to tell you, *(Whispers 🤫) these are healthier than sprouts.
- Vitamin and antioxidant levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times higher than the mature produce.
FUN FACT: When the seed germinates into a tiny sprout, the nutrient content is concentrated so it can grow, which means that they often become packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. The best part is you get all of this by utilizing very small space.
Microgreens offer a WIDE variety of choices in taste, texture, and even color like I mentioned earlier in this article but remember that not all seeds can be grown as microgreens. Especially plants in the Solanaceae family, which includes crops like tomatoes, potatoes, chilies, brinjal etc. They can cause serious toxication. With that being said, be sure to always do research on if a plants greens are edible first, or you can buy microgreen kits and ‘Microgreens Seeds’ from trusted suppliers such as this company here (seed link). We don’t want you to get sick!
Short reference list of crops that can be grown as Microgreens
- Swiss Chard
- Spicy cress
And many more.
Microgreens that are super colorful
- Mustard, Ruby Streaks
- Cabbage, Red Acre
- Basil, Dark Opal
- Amaranth, Garnet Red
- Radish Varieties
- Sorrel, Red Veined
- Popcorn, Yellow
- Kohlrabi, Purple Vienna
- These Microgreen varieties seeds can be more expensive due to coloration, and/or crop grow time.
FUN FACT: Brassica varieties are mostly spicy due to acid content.
How to use Microgreens in Recipes
To make Microgreens sound even better… Microgreens are SUPER versatile when it comes to adding them into meals. You can basically replace lettuce with microgreens and the flavor you get from them will change your world...Or, you can get creative and add them into so many dishes that the list is endless.
We listed a few suggestions below for you:
- Dehydrate microgreens and add make them into your own spice blend that you can use along with other herbs and spices in soups, sauces, curries, and main dishes.
- Make cuts in a fish and fill them with a mix of microgreen, mushrooms, apple chunks, spice, lemon, and salt and prepare it. For this I would suggest herb varieties!
- You can make an omelet with microgreens. Add tomato, onions, and cheese...cook it up, then top it off with a hearty handful of Microgreens and you are ready to go.
- Add microgreens to your favorite smoothie blend for a more energized drink.
- Microgreens are also made into energy punched smoothies.
- When your steak is almost done, stir microgreens & cherry tomatoes along with it.
- Top a pizza witch some microgreens and pepperoni. (we love doing this)
- You can add Pea Microgreens to any stir fry.
- 9. They can go in sushi, or you can make pesto sauce with them too.
- Radish microgreens will add an attractive color & Spice to your dressings.
- You can make vibrant rainbow salads using microgreens, vegetables, and edible flowers.
There’s even dessert options like our Popular Chocolate Dipped Sunflower Microgreens which will link you to that video cause it tastes AMAZING (click here to watch) . As of 2023, we even have a parent company called @microgreenfoodie – which is a Microgreen Recipe share & inspiration page, featuring recipes from the community as well as creations of our own!
As we said, the list is endless - If your curious about more ways to use Microgreens, we have a few other Microgreens Recipes on our YouTube Channel (Click here)
Basics of growing Microgreens
After all of the microgreen this and microgreen that (we obviously love them), we are at last at the cornerstone of this article which is, How can you grow some of your own Microgreens? Well luckily, you came to the right people, cause growing and teaching people about Microgreens is our mission and what we are striving for is for everyone to have access to them.
Although, you can easily grow microgreens in no time in your home, like we have shown on our YouTube using things such as egg cartons (click here), but if you are looking for a stable and consistent way to grow a good amount of produce, you might have to buy some supplies. Luckily, most of the supplies needed lasts awhile and can be reused.
In commercial growing, NSF zinc shelving racks are used to house seed trays. These seed trays are filled with media such as soil if you are going the traditional route. Hydroponics growing is another popular method that is frequently used since you can choose your own nutrients and also use grow mats or Coco coir as the grow medium. Fans for airflow and grow lights are also installed on the rack’s shelves. After Microgreen seeds germinate, the only thing that the seeds need is ample light which can be supplemented by using LED lights and enough water to keep them going. We also like to add a Liquid organic fertilizer or Worm castings to give our microgreens a boost of growth, and results in Micros that have larger leaves and sometimes stronger color/flavor than those watered with plain water. (check out this video)
If we have made you curious enough to learn how to grow, which was exactly what we were intending to do with this article! You should check out these links below that can help you learn every process on how to grow Microgreens easily at home or in a commercial setting! We even have a link hub that is organized for easy access and has everything we use/suggest to people.
- How to grow Microgreens Blog -> (click here)
- Other Microgreens Blogs -> (click here)
- How to Grow Microgreens Videos -> (click here)
- Other Microgreens Videos -> (click here)
- Link Hub -> (click here)
With all that being said, wouldn’t it be incredible if Microgreens became mainstream like other veggies are and more people had access to them at an affordable cost? Cultural horizontal land availability is decreasing day by day and food is becoming short. We are morphing into a world where everyone will have to grow their own food if we don't start to fix the problems we have created.
Microgreens may not be THE answer (or who knows maybe they are!!), but they are a perfect start, because they do not require much space and the turnover rate is so fast that you can have produce available in couple of days that can easily feed a small family from a single 10x20 tray. We hope that you will share this article with more people, so we can get the word out... or at the very least you learned some new things.
Written by: On The Grow®, LLC
Published: December 10, 2020
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