Aren’t microgreens basically sprouts?
Not exactly. Microgreens have three parts: a central stem, the cotyledon, and sometimes the first pair of very young true leaves. Sprouts are all of that, plus the root and the seed coat.
Sprouts pose a greater risk of bacterial contamination because they still include the part of the plant that touched the soil. Microgreens, on the other hand, are harvested above the soil. While any food product bears the risk of contamination from water and airborne bacteria, plants are exposed to bacteria mostly from the soil. Most soil bacteria are not harmful, but some are, and all it takes is one to cause trouble!
Are microgreens actually more nutritious than regular sized vegetables?
No simple question comes without a complicated answer! Many microgreens contain noticably larger quantities of phytochemicals as well as Vitamin A, E, C, and K compared with their mature counterparts, while some microgreens are not as impressive. This is actually a relatively new and growing area of research as scientists race to publish data on how these gourmet crops stack up. The nutrition information we know depends on which specific varieties they grew and under what conditions. Growth conditions like temperature, light levels, water quality, soil quality, harvesting, handling, and storage can all cause changes in nutrient levels of fresh produce.
But we will not leave you hanging. Here is a table of the information that we DO know.
Why can’t I just eat kale? It’s cheaper!
You can most certainly eat kale! While we never want to stop anyone from eating their vegetables, here are a few factors to consider.
Dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and chard (not to mention a lot of other vegetables) contain a compound called oxalic acid (or oxalate). Oxalic acid is a sneaky molecule – it latches onto minerals like iron and calcium in your digestive tract, from the greens and other foods you are eating, and prevents them from being absorbed by the body. Ingesting large quantities of oxalic acid can even cause kidney stones! Keeping that in mind, you would need to eat several pounds of leafy greens at once in order to get enough oxalic acid to make you sick. But why eat that much kale when you can get the same nutrition in a handful of kale microgreens, without all that pesky kidney stone and mineral loss business?
What are the advantages to using micro herbs, like Basil and Cilantro, instead of the full size?
Aside from the nutritional stuff, micro herbs do give certain culinary benefits. Cilantro is particularly time consuming to process in the kitchen, since the stems are woody and nobody likes sticks in their salsa. Imagine not having to pluck the leaves off…instead you can just grab a handful of delicate cilantro microgreens and toss them in! Done!
Micro basil is very fragile and needs to be grown with extra care, which is not altogether different from full size basil. For both basil and micro basil, the shelf life is short and the price tag is high. The biggest benefit of the microgreen for chefs is the strong flavor. Micro basil is much stronger and more noticeable in foods compared to full size basil leaves. A little goes a very long way! Take your basil greens to the next level with a powerful pesto or go crazy putting basil where you never imagined you’d find it.
Fact Sheets and Fliers
- How Do Microgreens Stack Up Against Full Sized Vegetables? by GreenSpace
- Microgreen Nutrient Comparison Table by GreenSpace
- Yield and quality of basil, Swiss chard, and rocket microgreens grown in a hydroponic system
- Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content
- Naturally Occurring Food Toxins
- Postharvest biology, quality and shelf life of buckwheat microgreens
- Xiao, Z., Codling, E.E., Luo, Y., Nou, X., Lester, G.E., Wang, Q., 2016. Microgreens of Brassicaceae: Mineral composition and content of 30 varieties. J. Food Compos. Anal. 49, 87–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfca.2016.04.006
- Weber, C.F., 2016. Nutrient Content of Cabbage and Lettuce Microgreens Grown on Vermicompost and Hydroponic Growing Pads. J. Hortic. 03. https://doi.org/10.4172/2376-0354.1000190
- Xiao, Z., Lester, G.E., Luo, Y., Wang, Q., 2012. Assessment of vitamin and carotenoid concentrations of emerging food products: Edible microgreens. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60, 7644–7651. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf300459b
- Sun, J., Xiao, Z., Lin, L., Lester, G.E., Wang, Q., Harnly, J.M., Chen, P., 2013. Profiling Polyphenols in Five Brassica species Microgreens by UHPLC-PDA-ESI/HRMS. J Agric Food Chem 61, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1088/1367-2630/15/1/015008.Fluid
- Høyen, B.E., 2017. Light and Temperature Effects on Metabolite Concentration in Selected Herbs and Microgreens. Nor. Univ. Sci. Technol.
- Baenas, N., Gómez-Jodar, I., Moreno, D.A., García-Viguera, C., Periago, P.M., 2017. Broccoli and radish sprouts are safe and rich in bioactive phytochemicals. Postharvest Biol. Technol. 127, 60–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.postharvbio.2017.01.010
- Gerovac, J.R., Craver, J.K., Boldt, J.K., Lopez, R.G., 2016. Light Intensity and Quality from Sole-source Light-emitting Diodes Impact Growth, Morphology, and Nutrient Content of Brassica Microgreens. HortScience 51, 497–503.
- Samuoliene, G., Brazaityte, A., Vir??ile, A., Jankauskiene, J., Sakalauskiene, S., Duchovskis, P., 2016. Red light-dose or wavelength-dependent photoresponse of antioxidants in herb microgreens. PLoS One 11, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0163405
- Brazaitytė, A., Sakalauskienė, S., Viršilė, A., Jankauskienė, J., Samuolienė, G., Sirtautas, R., Vaštakaitė, V., Miliauskienė, J., Duchovskis, P., Novičkovas, A., Dabašinskas, L., 2016. The effect of short-term red lighting on Brassicaceae microgreens grown indoors. Acta Hortic. 177–184. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1123.25