Microgreens are young vegetable greens that are approximately 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm) tall.
They have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content and come in a variety of colors and textures
Microgreens are considered baby plants, falling somewhere between a sprout and baby green.
That said, they shouldn’t be confused with sprouts, which do not have leaves. Sprouts also have a much shorter growing cycle of 2–7 days, whereas microgreens are usually harvested 7–21 days after germination, once the plant’s first true leaves have emerged.
Microgreens are more similar to baby greens in that only their stems and leaves are considered edible. However, unlike baby greens, they are much smaller in size and can be sold before being harvested.
This means that the plants can be bought whole and cut at home, keeping them alive until they are consumed.
Microgreens are very convenient to grow, as they can be grown in a variety of locations, including outdoors, in greenhouses, and even on your windowsill.
Microgreens can be grown from many different types of seeds.
The most popular varieties are produced using seeds from the following plant families
- Brassicaceae family: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish, and arugula
- Asteraceae family: Lettuce, endive, chicory, and radicchio
- Apiaceae family: Dill, carrot, fennel, and celery
- Amaryllidaceae family: Garlic, onion, leek
- Amaranthaceae family: Amaranth, quinoa swiss chard, beet, and spinach
- Cucurbitaceae family: Melon, cucumber, and squash
Cereals such as rice, oats, wheat, corn, and barley, as well as legumes like chickpeas, beans, and lentils, are also sometimes grown into microgreens
Microgreens vary in taste, which can range from neutral to spicy, slightly sour, or even bitter, depending on the variety. Generally speaking, their flavor is considered strong and concentrated.
Microgreens are packed with nutrients.
While their nutrient contents vary slightly, most varieties tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper
Microgreens are also a great source of beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants
What’s more, their nutrient content is concentrated, which means that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant levels than the same quantity of mature greens
In fact, research comparing microgreens to more mature greens reports that nutrient levels in microgreens can be up to nine times higher than those found in mature greens
Research also shows that they contain a wider variety of polyphenols and other antioxidants than their mature counterparts
One study measured vitamin and antioxidant concentrations in 25 commercially available microgreens. These levels were then compared to levels recorded in the USDA National Nutrient Database for mature leaves.
Although vitamin and antioxidant levels varied, levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times higher than those recorded for more mature leaves
That said, not all studies report similar results.
For instance, one study compared nutrient levels in sprouts, microgreens, and fully grown amaranth crops. It noted that the fully grown crops often contained as much, if not more, nutrients than the microgreens
Therefore, although microgreens generally appear to contain higher nutrient levels than more mature plants, this may vary based on the species at hand.