Microgreens are a form of young edible greens produced from the seeds of vegetables, herbs, or other plants. They are usually harvested just after the first leaves have developed, known as the cotyledon stage, and are distinct from sprouts, which do not have leaves. Microgreens can offer a variety of flavors, such as spicy, tangy, or sweet, depending on the plant they come from.
These tiny plants are different from traditional crops in several ways. Most notably, they are harvested very early in their growth cycle, which can range from a week to two weeks after germination, unlike full-grown vegetables, which may take several weeks to months to reach harvest time. This short growth period allows for the farming of microgreens in small spaces like indoors or in urban settings where traditional agriculture might not be feasible.
There are numerous potential benefits associated with microgreens. Nutritionally, they are renowned for having a higher concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than their mature plant counterparts. Their small size means that they are also a concentrated source of beneficial nutrients. Including microgreens in one’s diet can thus contribute to a greater intake of various essential nutrients.
Benefits of Microgreens:
- Nutrient-Rich: Although tiny, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can contribute to better health.
- Flavorful Addition to Meals: Their intense flavor can enhance salads, sandwiches, and entrees.
- Year-Round Indoor Gardening: Microgreens can be grown indoors at any time of the year, making it easy to have a fresh supply of greens.
- Shorter Grow Time: Microgreens can be harvested within days or weeks, versus traditional gardening which takes much longer.
- Space-Efficient: They require very little space, making them perfect for urban dwellers or those with limited gardening space.
There is also a wide variety of microgreens, which come from numerous plant families. Some of the most popular varieties include:
- Arugula: Peppery flavor, commonly used in salads and sandwiches.
- Radish: Spicy and is often used to add a kick to dishes.
- Red cabbage: Has a mild cabbage flavor and is rich in vitamins A and C.
- Pea Shoots: Tender and sweet, they are often used in stir-fries and salads.
- Sunflower: Nutty flavor and crunchy texture, great for salads and snacks.
- Basil: Aromatic herb frequently used in Italian and Asian cuisines.
- Broccoli: Mild flavor and contains high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants.
Microgreens, the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs can be incorporated into our daily meals in a variety of ways.
How to Use Microgreens:
- Salad Mix-Ins: Elevate a simple salad by adding a handful of microgreens. Their vibrant colors and varied textures add visual interest and a nutritional punch.
- Garnishes: Use microgreens to garnish soups, stews, or pasta dishes. Not only do they add a touch of elegance, but they also introduce a fresh flavor that can complement any dish.
- Smoothie Boosts: If you’re looking to fortify your smoothies with extra vitamins and minerals, consider blending in some microgreens. They’re especially good in green smoothies, contributing to the overall nutrient density.
- Sandwich Toppings: Swap out lettuce on your next sandwich or wrap for microgreens. They’ll provide a more intense flavor as well as a beneficial nutrient boost.
- As a Pizza Topping: After baking your pizza, sprinkle a generous amount of microgreens on top. The heat from the pizza will slightly wilt them, making them a perfect, nutritious complement to the dish.
- Omelets and Scrambles: Stir microgreens into your eggs before cooking or sprinkle them on top of your finished omelet or scramble. They add color, texture, and a pleasant, fresh taste.
- Grain Bowls and Buddha Bowls: Microgreens can transform a simple bowl of grains into a sophisticated, health-packed meal. Pair them with quinoa, rice, or your choice of grains and legumes for a hearty dish.
- Juicing: For those who enjoy fresh juices, add microgreens to your ingredients list. They’ll provide additional green power and amplify the health benefits of your juice.
- Pesto: While basil is the traditional star of pesto, microgreens can be used to create an innovative twist on this classic sauce. Blend them with nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese for a fresh, green spread.
- Edible “Confetti” on Snacks: Sprinkle microgreens over snacks like hummus, deviled eggs, or bruschetta. It adds a pop of color and nutrients, making the snacks more festive and healthful.
- Herbal Teas: Delicate microgreen varieties can be infused in hot water to create a subtle herbal tea that’s both comforting and packed with nutrients.
- Taco Toppings: Instead of lettuce, try garnishing your tacos with microgreens. They will give your tacos a modern twist and amp up the nutrient content.
- Sushi Rolls: Incorporate microgreens into your sushi rolls. They can add a new layer of flavor and texture, enhancing the overall experience.
- Savory Pancakes and Crepes: Add a small amount of microgreens into the batter or simply place them inside pancakes and crepes along with other fillings for an added nutritional element.
By incorporating microgreens in these varied and imaginative ways, you can significantly increase the nutritional value of your meals without compromising on taste. These young greens are not only a powerhouse of nutrients but also a versatile culinary ingredient that can inspire creativity in the kitchen.
But Jalena, how do I grow these cute little nutrient-packed goodies?
Growing microgreens is a rewarding and simple process that offers a variety of benefits and requires minimal equipment. These tiny shoots, harvested soon after the first leaves develop, pack not only a flavor punch but also a concentrated dose of nutrients. Here are the basic steps to get started:
How to Grow Microgreens:
- Gather Your Supplies: You will need seeds, a growing tray, potting soil or a soilless medium, and a sunny windowsill or grow lights.
- Seed Selection: Choose high-quality seeds specifically meant for sprouting or growing microgreens.
- Growing Medium: Use a shallow tray with a good-quality soil mix or a hydroponic medium.
- Prepare Your Trays: Fill your trays with soil, press it down lightly, and water it thoroughly.
- Sow the Seeds: Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the surface of the soil. Some seeds may need a light dusting of soil on top; refer to the seed packet for specific instructions.
- Keep Conditions Humid: Initially, cover the tray with another tray or a clear lid to create a mini-greenhouse effect.
- Provide Adequate Light: As soon as the seeds sprout, remove the cover and ensure they receive plenty of light — either from a sunny spot or a grow light.
- Water Mindfully: Use a fine mist or bottom water to prevent disturbing the seeds. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
- Temperature: Maintain an ambient temperature of 18-24°C (65-75°F) for optimal growth.
- Harvesting: Once the microgreens are several inches tall and have developed their first true leaves, they can be harvested by cutting them with sharp scissors just above the soil level.
Growing microgreens is not only easy and efficient but also highly rewarding. By incorporating microgreens into your diet, you’re adding a splash of color, texture, and a nutritional boost to your daily meals. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, microgreens are an excellent choice for anyone looking to enhance their food with fresh, homegrown greens. What are you waiting for? Get started today!