The easiest part of eating healthier is wanting to, but the next steps, like fitting in more veggies and nutrients? It’s a little easier said than done... unless you’re talking about microgreens.
When it comes to superfoods, these tiny greens actually fit the description. Smaller than your pinky nail, these tiny leaves have comparably more vitamins and minerals than a serving of kale. Just a handful of them sprinkled over your salad or rice bowl can elevate the meal to heart-healthy status. And there are over a dozen kinds to choose from!
Keep reading to see how these the tiny plants stack up next to their big reputations. Adding them just might be the best thing you ever do for your diet.
The term “microgreen” refers to the stage of plant growth in between a sprout and an adult plant. Usually harvested between 7 to 14 days after planting, microgreens have fully developed cotyledons (the small leaves that first appear after sprouting), but have yet to exhibit adult “true” leaves. Harvesting plants at this stage yields vibrant, tender veggies that are favored by chefs for their wide range of flavor profiles and visual flair.
Up until recently, a lack of scientific research meant that health claims behind the high nutritional content of microgreens were largely unfounded. But newer studies showed that different microgreens provided extremely varying amounts of vitamins and carotenoids. Many people wrote off the hype as another passing trend, but universities and the USDA are growing increasingly supportive of microgreens and their praise.
- more nutrient dense
- less calories
- fairly easy to grow
Compared to adult plants of the same varieties, microgreens can actually pack much higher concentrations of nutrients into their smaller forms. Some of the microgreens studied contained up to forty times the amount of vitamins and minerals as their adult versions.
More studies need to be done in order to explain exactly why this is the case, but the results are promising so far about getting the most nutrition out of each calorie. For example, one study has indicated that a person would be able to eat 42 percent less mass of microgreens in order to get the same amount of minerals found in a serving of raw broccoli florets — that’s serious bang for your buck!
- For everyday eating, try sunflower, pea, radish, broccoli, arugula, kale, and mustard.
- Chefs like to use red amaranth, red veined sorrel, popcorn shoots, basil, beets, and cress.
- This writer’s favorite is curly cress for its unique, complex flavor profile.
Microgreens have a wide range of flavors, so don’t expect them to taste exactly like their full-grown versions. You might be surprised to discover how much peppery zing is contained in an arugula sprout, how the taste of broccoli microgreens pairs with a texture more similar to leafy greens, or how various types of cress can simultaneously be peppery, sweet, and taste like licorice.
Cut microgreens require refrigeration to preserve their freshness. The best way to preserve the nutritional content and flavor of microgreens is to eat them fresh and raw. So buy these delicate greens the day you want to eat them, or eat them the day you get them!
Although, growing them at home allows you to cut as many as you need for a sandwich or salad, and leave the rest to continue growing.
In restaurants, you’re most likely to find chefs using microgreens as garnishes, but we say let them take center stage in your own kitchen. Use them in sandwiches to replace less nutrient-dense vegetables like lettuce. Add them to soups to increase texture and flavor. Or spice up your daily salad by experimenting with different microgreens as the main ingredient.
If you can’t find microgreens at your local market, try growing them! Commercial growers love microgreens for their quick turnaround cycles and high profit margins, but it’s easy enough for anyone to grow them on a kitchen windowsill with a few basic materials.
Commercial growers often use the latest LED technology to increase daylight cycles and enhance growth, but most microgreens don’t require intense light and can be grown on a windowsill or in the ambient light of your house.
Make sure to keep the growing medium moist but not soaked. In one to two weeks the plants will be ready for harvest. Use either scissors or a knife to cut the stems above the growing medium, and enjoy! Certain varieties, such as peas, will grow back for a second harvest, but most crops require new grow medium and seeds every batch.
Whether you want to grow them yourself or buy them at the market, microgreens are really a dream for your healthy eating plan. They’re high in nutritional value and are absolutely kicking with flavor for less calories.
Preston Hartwick is co-founder and farm manager of Common Farms — Hong Kong’s first indoor vertical urban farm that grows microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers. Their goal is to revitalize local food production in one of the world’s most densely populated cities — where over 99 percent of fresh produce is imported from around the planet. Find out more by following them on Instagram or visit commonfarms.com.