Microgreens are tiny vegetables that are harvested at the most nutritious stage of a plant’s life cycle.
Grown indoors on a windowsill or counter, microgreens are up to 40% more nutritious than mature vegetables, and 20% more than sprouts. With hundreds of important phytochemicals and micronutrients in each one it 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.
- Stage 1 – Sprouts (2-5 days old)
- Stage 2 – Microgreens (8-21 days old)
- Stage 3 – Baby greens (15-40 days old)
- Stage 4 – Mature plant (40-160 days old)
Sprouts vs Microgreens
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. They could be called the ‘infants’ of the plant world. They have just barely germinated and are grown in a warm, humid environment for 2-5 days. They are only a couple of inches long, the cotyledons are just beginning to expand, and they do not have true leaves. The entire sprout is eaten, from seed to stem. They’re typically pale in color because they have not yet begun making nutrients through photosynthesis.
Microgreens are the 2nd stage in the plant’s life cycle
This is what we might call the ‘toddler’ stage- one of rapid growth and activity. 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. At this point, the cotyledons (the seed leaves) are open and helping the baby plant become a photosynthetic organism. This process of photosynthesis begins to rapidly increase the nutrients in the tiny plant, giving the plant everything it needs to grow into a full grown plant. When we harvest at this stage, not only do we have the nutrients from the seed and cotyledon, we consume all the nutrients that it is packing on before it begins it’s growth spurt.
Microgreens are usually 3-5 inches long and can be grown in soil or a growing medium such as coconut coir. Harvesting is as simple as cutting them just above the soil level with a pair of scissors.
An important difference between sprouts and microgreens- or why you should be growing microgreens instead of sprouts.
The warm, humid, and low-ventilation conditions used for sprouts are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, 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 with good airflow, no excess humidity and light- exactly the way nature intended seeds to grow. When grown correctly, they are planted in an organic, clean substrate that is prepared especially for microgreens. Each of these conditions provides a safe, healthy and nutritious way to grow fresh vegetables indoors. The risk of contamination is dramatically lower than sprouts, as well as store-bought greens such as spinach. Microgreens are a healthy, safe choice.