What are Microgreens?

If you haven’t heard about microgreens, then here’s something about them that will excite you! These are tiny greens that are not only flavoursome but chock full of phenolics and beneficial nutrients that you can add to your soups, salads, sandwiches and even pizzas!

And they are so easy to grow, ready to eat in two weeks or less!

What are these microgreens? They are mini, leafy vegetables and herbs that will develop into fully grown plants if you allow them to.

Microgreens are easy to grow

Microgreens are easy to grow on regular or terrace gardens. Space is of no concern to raise them. All you need is some corner by a window where there’s sufficient light. And all the equipment you’ll need is tiny beds of soil in some containers.

That’s some healthful hobby to indulge in during lockdown! The bonus point is there’s no need for fertilizers or pesticides to grow them. Smart green solution to nutritional problems!

But they are not to be confused with sprouts. Think of the comparison this way: sprouts are infant plants and microgreens are toddlers!

Microgreens are Rich in Nutrients

Although health benefits are similar to that of sprouts, microgreens have greater nutritional value. Researchers say that microgreens contain 40 times higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals than mature plants.

For example, this 2012 study found microgreens to have four to six times the nutrient content their mature counterparts have. And this study found higher concentrations in microgreens of bioactive compounds, e.g. phenolics, flavonoids and carotenoids. These compounds all contribute to higher antioxidant activity.

These nutrient-dense plants are extremely easy to grow even by people with little or no gardening experience. To make the effort easier, some organizations even offer what they call ‘microgreen DIY kits,’ complete with the container, soil, and seeds so growers just have to open the pack and drop the seeds as instructed!

Microgreens are young plants that can be easily grown at home!

How to grow microgreens?

Once we plant the seed in the soil, within three or four days it will germinate and a green, tiny head will stick out. These are the cotyledons. They are out in the open, their coats ready to burst and give way to a tiny, green stem. Give the baby plant a week to ten days more and it develops into a seedling, two to three inches tall, with tiny leaves.

These are the first true leaves. They are unlike the cotyledon leaves you see at first, which look nothing like leaves but like bulging seeds.

When you notice these true leaves, it is time to harvest. That usually takes twelve to fourteen days. There are varieties of plants you can choose from. For example, to name a few:

  • Radish
  • Broccoli
  • Turnips
  • Fenugreek
  • Coriander
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Amaranth
  • Beet
  • Bok Choy

All these plants are great as full-grown ones and as microgreens, they make for wholesome and nutritious supplements to your daily diet.

Microgreens are flavoursome too!

Over and above the nutrition they pack, they also carry the flavours of their mature counterparts. So broccoli microgreens will taste of broccoli, radish of radish, coriander of coriander, and so on.

But there’s one significant difference: their levels of minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals are considerably higher than that of the mature plants.

So, by comparison, from an equal quantity by weight, microgreens deliver more nutrient value.

That makes nutritional sense to add sprinklings of microgreens over salads, soups, veggies, bread, or even smoothies.

The nutrients will contribute to lowering the risk of diseases such as cancer, arthritis, or Alzheimer’s disease. They will also help boost health by building up immunity against diseases.

Microgreens have a wide range of uses - from gourmet food to homes

Microgreens were not known before the beginning of the last century. It was only during the mid-1980s that they were grown for use by chefs only in Michelin star or gourmet restaurants. The greens grace as garnishing on the fine creations of the chefs.

Now, of course, many restaurants have started the trend of adding them to hors d’oevres, appetizers, desserts and more. They give the appearance of ‘vegetable confetti’ to the dish, not just colour and aroma but also loads of beneficial nutrients.

There are ways and ways of using microgreens. Try sprinkling fresh chopped coriander to your sandwich spread. Or, put some colour to your lyonnaise potatoes with chopped parsley. Again, add some colour and zing to your steamed rice with chopped dill.

Microgreens are a good way to eat healthy!

But you might not catch hold of them that easily in the market. Even if you do they are likely to be expensive. Besides, how would you know if they’re safe enough to eat?

The best option is to grow them yourself. That way you will ensure they are available when you need them as well as have control over the quality.

Why should you grow Microgreens?

Here’s a take on why microgreens are ideal options:

You Know Nothing About Gardening: But you want to grow your food. Microgreens are easy to grow. Ideal for gardening dummies and those pressed for time too. All you need is a couple of containers (aluminium foils will do), some potting soil mix, and a sunny place by the window.

  1. They Grow Fast: In two to three weeks they are ready for harvest.
  2. Nutrient-rich: Microgreens are many times more nutritious than their full-grown counterparts. Although you must eat your vegetables for the high fibre content, the tiny greens will supplement your micronutrient needs.
  3. Flavour-filled: The aromas are the same as the grown vegetables. Besides being excellent garnishing, you’ll love the flavours and the colours.

No wonder microgreens have gained popularity as the new culinary trend in the last decade or so. These tiny bits of green are intense in flavour, vivid in colour, and crisp in texture.

What endears them most to all is the ease with which they can be grown at home by all classes of society. That makes them so easy to reach for and so inexpensive. All these qualities make it the ideal food supplement not only for taste and presentation but also for nutritional security.

What Research have Scientists done on Microgreens so far?

In 2012 a team of scientists of the U.S. Department of Agriculture carried out a study on the nutrient concentrations of 25 microgreens.

In general, the study reveals, the tiny plants “contained considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature counterparts…”

The results also showed rich concentrations of vitamin C, K, E, and carotenoids in red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon.

The greens are also rich in minerals such as copper, iron, manganese, and selenium, to name a few. Besides, they have significant amounts of proteins, amino acids, and B vitamins.

So it is worth to have fresh microgreens, concludes the study.

What plants are good to grow as Microgreens?

Well, only you can answer that question because it depends on what greens you need and what you want to do with them.

That said, we can suggest six microgreens that will not drain your strength. They will do great for any salad, soup, or garnishing.

These are:

  1. Radish

They do not need much fertilizer are the easiest to grow. It’s hard, if not impossible, not to get them to grow. They also grow quickly. In about ten days, before the first true leaves show up, they are ready for harvest. 

  1. Broccoli

Like radish, broccoli microgreens are easy to seed and grow. But it grows a little slower so you may get to harvest by about two weeks in the cotyledon stage before the first true leaves appear.

  1. Basil

Basil takes a little longer to show up – about three weeks. It also needs a slightly warmer temperature. With the heat, a little up you might get to harvest in two weeks. But the best flavour comes when they are about three weeks old. And one great thing about basil is you can allow them to grow to maturity.

  1. Coriander

Well, who doesn’t love coriander? These tiny, highly aromatic herbs bring out the delight in curries, stir-fries, and soups. Chop them, shred them, or put them whole. They’ll do, anyway. And coriander chutney is something that turns a bland meal into a gourmet spread. 

The best way to plant is to first crush the seeds lightly before putting them in the soil. Allow two weeks of growth time and then harvest. 

  1. Spinach

Mild and packed with nutrients, the greens make great salads and soup garnishes. Add them to peppery soups, stir into a risotto, or make a spinach omelette, the taste will show the difference!

It’s easy to grow and takes only about ten days to harvest.

  1. Beetroot

The red-stemmed leaves don’t fail to lend that splash of colour. The flavour is mild and earthy. Sprinkled it over grilled meats and fish and enjoy the unbeatable aroma.

Easy to grow and needs about ten days to harvest.

There are many more microgreens you can grow such as mustard, fennel, dill, cabbage, kohlrabi, amaranth, and many others. 

Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong with them, whether in taste or nutrition. And they sure dress of yours great!

So, how to Grow Microgreens?

Microgreens need weed-free, well-drained soil with good organic content. An example of an ideal medium is a mix of one part each of garden soil, coco peat, and vermin-compost.

Rake the soil to loosen it and break lumpy soils down. Scatter the seeds and then cover them lightly so they stay about a centimetre under. Water them thoroughly but not so they drown in water. The soil must always stay moist and free from weeds.

If using a container, make the potting mix first and then fill in the pots at least two inches high or three-quarters full. But make sure the containers have holes underneath or else you’ll the seeds in water.

Plants need plenty of sunshine so make sure you place them on the windowsill or anywhere where they will get sufficient light.

Watering, but not drowning, is critical, as well as sunlight.

In a few days, tiny, tender, baby greens will peep out of the soil. 

To harvest, the best way to do that is to snip them on their stem just above the ground.

Some greens such as coriander and spinach can re-grow over and over again which means you have a couple more harvest after the first.

As edible as they are delectable to eat, they will delight your heart as you watch them grow, as when they garnish your plate.

What are the Health Benefits of Microgreens?

The high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals are bound to have healthful benefits.

Besides, microgreens are rich in polyphenols, the plant chemicals that are a class of antioxidants. They help lower the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

So, Should we Include Microgreens in Our Diet?

Not only include them, but we should grow them too! It’s easy and fun as you’ve seen.

In conclusion...

We’re always concerned with health – yours and ours, and the farmers’ we partner. Health is actually in our hands. And we can do ourselves a lot of good with microgreens.

We hope you like this story. Do share your thoughts in the comments below!

To your good health!

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