Tell Me More About Microgreens

microgreen variety collage

Since their debut in the Californian restaurant scene in the 1980s, microgreens have steadily gained a following. These pungent greens, also known as mini herbs or vegetable confetti, are full of flavor and add a nice dash of color to various dishes. Despite their tiny size, they carry a nutritional boost, often containing higher nutrient levels than more mature vegetables. These features make them an excellent enhancement to any healthy diet. This piece reviews the possible wellness advantages of microgreens and some information on different types commonly used.

Physical Characteristics

Microgreens are immature vegetable plants that are roughly 1–3 inches tall. They have a fragrant flavor and elevated nutrient content and come in a range of colors and textures. Microgreens are essentially young plants, sitting somewhere between a sprout and baby green, but should not be mistaken with sprouts, which do not have leaves. Sprouts additionally have a considerably shorter growing period of 2–7 days, whereas microgreens are ordinarily picked 7–21 days after germination, once the plant’s first real leaves have appeared. Microgreens are likewise comparable to baby greens because only their stems and leaves are edible. Unlike baby greens, they are significantly smaller in size and can be sold before being harvested. Meaning that the plants can be purchased whole and cut at home, keeping them growing until the microgreens are eaten. Microgreens are very convenient to raise since they can be grown in various locations, including outdoors, greenhouses, and even on your windowsill.

Microgreen Types

Microgreens can be produced from many different types of seeds.

The most popular varieties are grown using seeds from the following plant families:

  • Brassicaceae: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish, and arugula
  • Asteraceae: Lettuce, endive, chicory, and radicchio
  • Apiaceae: Dill, carrot, fennel, and celery
  • Amaryllidaceae: Garlic, onion, leek
  • Amaranthaceae: Amaranth, quinoa, swiss chard, beet, and spinach
  • Cucurbitaceae: Melon, cucumber, and squash
  • Cereals such as rice, oats, wheat, corn, barley, and legumes like chickpeas, beans, and lentils, are also sometimes grown into microgreens.

Microgreens vary in taste, ranging from neutral to spicy, somewhat sour, or even bitter, depending on the variety. Commonly speaking, their flavor is considered strong and intense.

Microgreens Are Nutritious

Microgreens are packed with nutrients. While their nutrient contents deviate slightly, most types tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper. Microgreens are also an excellent source of beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants.
What’s more, their nutrient levels are concentrated, meaning that they frequently contain higher vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant levels than the same amount of mature greens. Research shows that they contain a wider variety of polyphenols and other antioxidants than their adult counterparts. One study estimated vitamin and antioxidant concentrations in 25 commercially available microgreens. These were then compared to levels recorded in the USDA National Nutrient Database for mature leaves.
Although vitamin and antioxidant levels differed, levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times greater than those recorded for more mature plants. That said, not all studies report similar results. For instance, one study compared nutrient levels in sprouts, microgreens, and fully grown amaranth crops. It noted that the fully grown crops often contained as much, if not more, nutrients than the microgreens. Therefore, although microgreens generally appear to have higher nutrient levels than more mature plants, this may vary based on the species at hand.