What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens surfaced to popularity in San Francisco during the 1980s, that’s when they became a menu staple for every chef in town.
As the name suggests, the microgreens are small versions of plants, vegetables, or herbs. Microgreens can grow approximately 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm) tall. While known for its small size, microgreens shouldn’t be confused with shoots or sprouts. Shoots include stems, leaves, lateral buds, flowering stems, and buds. Sprouts are the germ part of germination which means a plant’s baby stem and just a younger version of microgreens. Shoots often grow or appear on woody plants, sprouts are usually grown in water, while microgreens can grow in both – soil and water. Aside from shoots and sprouts, microgreens shouldn’t also be confused with baby greens. Baby greens are the leafy and older versions of microgreens that are usually harvested when they are more mature yet still tender.
Microgreens are wildly used in fine dining. Chefs love them for their colours, texture and added flavor. Aside from its gorgeous appearance, microgreens also have nutritional benefits that are hard to beat.
Benefits of Microgreens
In today’s time, microgreens became not just a garnish staple but also a nutrient source. Here are some of the health benefits of microgreens:
- High in vitamins and nutrients
According to research, most of the sources of microgreens contain high-level of key nutrients and vitamins like ascorbic acid (vitamin C), phylloquinone (vitamin K), tocopherols (vitamin E), beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor), plus other nutritional components like iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. According to a study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, microgreens are four to 40 times more nutritious by weight compared to its mature counterpart.
- Rich in antioxidants
Since it was discovered that microgreens contain high levels of vitamins, another research was made to study these minuscule but mighty edible seedlings on a specific level. According to a team of scientists and researchers in Agricultural Research Services, most of the sources of microgreens – especially buckwheat and red cabbage – contain the highest concentrations of vitamin C. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant among its many functions. Antioxidants are the body’s first line of defense. They fight off free radicals which are toxic to the human body. A free radical formation can be developed from certain lifestyle habits like excessive alcohol intake, air pollution, smoking, radiation, and intense exercises that can lead to damaging the tissues. With a healthy amount of microgreens added in your diet, a proper sum of vitamin C and antioxidants will be delivered to and benefit the body.
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
Microgreens are rich in polyphenols – a type of antioxidants responsible for lowering the risk of heart problems. It is also presented in different studies that eating more vegetables helps in reducing the risk of heart diseases. One study performed on rats showed that microgreens are effective in boosting your heart’s health. A high-fat diet supplemented with a type of microgreens called red cabbage was fed to rats and resulted in lower triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. High amounts of triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol mean fats building up along the heart’s artery walls and increases a person’s risk to heart attack and stroke. Mixed with the right amount of physical exercise, a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and a couple of microgreen servings could help your heart improve its health.
- Boost your immune system
High consumption of fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of the inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases. One review showed that eating vegetables helps in fighting certain cancers like prostate cancer and cancers affecting the body’s digestive tract. With high vitamin and mineral content – like antioxidants and polyphenols, microgreens combined into a person’s diet can assist in boosting your health and fighting off viruses and infections.
- Improve your eyesight
Aside from the vitamins mentioned earlier, there is also lutein and zeaxanthin present in microgreens. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid vitamins located in the eyes. They are responsible for filtering blue light and protecting the eyes to maintain good health. According to studies, the human body can’t naturally produce these antioxidants. This is why eating vegetables rich in these components are highly encouraged. In a recent study, high intake of foods with lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin E can result in a decreased risk of cataracts.
How To Grow Them
Microgreens can grow both indoors and outdoors. They don’t take a lot to get started and you can grow them from the comfort of your home.
What you need:
- High-quality seeds
- Growing container or shallow tray if you’re considering to grow them indoors
- A lid to cover your container
- Potting soil
Things to do:
- Fill your tray or container with soil. Water it lightly.
- Put the seeds of your choice and spread them out evenly. Sprinkle water to your seeds lightly. Then use a lid to cover. Make sure to visit the container or tray daily and make sure the seeds are well-moist.
- Germination will occur in a few days. Once you notice that your seeds finally germinated, you can remove the lid from the container and expose them to sunlight. If you’re growing indoors, you can put your container or tray near the window. Make sure to water them at least once a day or spray them with a water bottle.
- In the next 7-10 days when your microgreens grow at least 3 inches tall, they are up for harvest. Harvest them by cutting just above the soil line.
- If you’re ready to plant a new batch of seeds, you can remove the roots or start with a fresh soil.
Don’t fancy growing in soil? Check this guide for an easy soil-free way to grow your micro greens.
Microgreens grow all throughout the year. You can enjoy them in the summer, winter, autumn, fall. With gardening experience or not, growing microgreens is easy. All in all, microgreens are a great addition to your diet.
All images are property of RetreatHub