Microgreens are baby vegetables and are the most nutritious stage of a plant’s life cycle.
  • Stage 1 – Sprouts (2-5 days old)
  • Stage 2 – Microgreens (10-21 days old)
  • Stage 3 – Baby greens (15-40 days old)
  • Stage 4 – Mature plant (40-160 days old)
To understand microgreens, it’s helpful to first understand sprouts.

Simply put, both sprouts and microgreens are baby plants. However, they differ in the way they are grown, the way they taste, their nutritional content- and in safety.

Sprouts are the first stage of a plant’s life cycle that lasts until the cotyledons expand- they are the ‘infants’ of the plant world. They have just barely germinated and are grown in water for 2-5 days. They are only a couple of inches long, don’t have true leaves, and you can eat the entire sprout from seed to stem. They’re typically pale in color because they have not yet begun making nutrients through photosynthesis.

sprouts grown in a jar

Microgreens are the 2nd stage in the plant’s life cycle

This is what we call the ‘toddler’ stage. Typically, about 10-14 days old, this is the time when the plant has more key nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants per ounce than at any other stage of plant growth.

Microgreens are grown in soil in the open, with good airflow

Microgreens are usually 3-5 inches long and can be grown in soil or a growing medium such as coconut coir. At this point, the cotyledons (the seed leaves) are open and helping the baby plant become a photosynthetic organism. Harvesting is as simple as cutting them just above the soil level with a pair of scissors.

Microgreens have 20% more nutrients than sprouts

Microgreens are up to 40% more nutritious than mature vegetables, with hundreds of important phytochemicals and micronutrients in each one. This means that you need to eat less than you would mature vegetables to get the necessary nutrients in your diet each day.

For those that do not like the texture or taste of vegetables, microgreens are the perfect answer- they taste much sweeter than full-grown vegetables and are small and easy to ‘hide’ in a meal.

An important difference between sprouts and microgreens

Unlike other fresh produce, including microgreens, the warm, humid, and low-ventilation conditions used for sprouts are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including SalmonellaListeria, and E. coli.  Historically, sprouts have been a major offender in Salmonella outbreaks.  Any bacteria present can multiply dramatically during the sprouting process because of the way they are grown (Organic or locally-grown sprouts are not necessarily less risky, and neither are sprouts grown at home). Washing sprouts may reduce risk, but will not eliminate it.

Microgreens, however, are grown in soil or coir, with good airflow and bright light or sun. Each of these conditions drastically reduces the opportunity for bacteria to grab hold and flourish. The roots are not eaten, and the risk of contamination is dramatically lower than sprouts, as well as much lower than many store-bought greens such as spinach. Microgreens are a healthy, safe choice.