Riding the high wave of gastronomic trends are the microgreens! It is the new buzz word appearing in the world of health from menus of fancy restaurants, health articles and supermarkets. What are microgreens? It’s a term used for marketing. First true leaves emerge from young edible seedlings; they are harvested 7-14 days after germination. In 1990s, they were known as vegetable confetti. A variety of cultivars can be grown as microgreens. They are gaining popularity because of their high nutrient content, attractive color, delicate texture and distinctive flavor. Microgreens are more nutrient dense but may taste nothing like their mature counterpart. The flavor ranges from mild to spicy, sweet to bitter or peppery. Smaller microgreen quantity offer same nutrition as large quantity of its mature counterparts.
Microgreen varieties are limitless; you can grow microgreens from grains, leafy greens, herbs, legumes, grasses, edible flowers and root veggies. Basil, coriander, beet roots, carrots, sunflower, kale, arugula, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, radish, fenugreek, are some commonly grown microgreens.
A research study conducted by the University of Maryland on nutrient content in 25 various types of microgreens found that microgreens can give you four to 40 times the amount of vitamins, such as Vitamins C and E, as compared to mature plants.
This study also measured five Brassica (cabbage and mustard family) microgreens and found them to be excellent sources of polyphenols (compounds in plants that offer health benefits). These micronutrients confer potent antioxidant properties and offer exceptional benefits, including the potential to improve heart health, lower blood sugar and promote brain function.
There is evidence that red cabbage microgreens lowers circulating ldl (bad cholesterol), liver cholesterol and inflammatory cytokines when fed to mice on high-fat diet, according to a study published in J. Agric. Food Chem. Review study published in Journal of Future Foods, focused on evaluating the nutrient content of microgreens as compared to their matured counterparts, concluded that microgreens are good sources of nutrients and antioxidants, including Vitamin C, minerals (e.g., Cu and Zn), carotenoids and phenolic compounds. Due to the richness of vitamins and phytochemicals, microgreens have a strong antioxidant capacity and are effective in the regulation of plasma lipoprotein and cholesterol metabolism, showing a potential value in the prevention and/or treatment of chronic diseases. (Nutritional quality and health benefits of microgreens, a crop of modern agriculture, YanqiZhang, 2021)
Microgreens are easy to grow, pre-soaking the seeds help in faster germination, aluminum foil tray, pots, any shallow boxes with holes work fine, can be grown on germination paper, soil, etc. Usually, they are harvested when the plants are 1-2 inches high. I grow my microgreens in foil trays as follows:
Take two foil trays, one tray with the plastic lid. Poke holes for drainage in one foil tray, about 12 in a large tray, fill it with ¾ of the soil and compost mixture, put seeds about 1-1.5 inch apart, lightly cover with soil. Moisten the soil with spray bottle. Put three cups of water in the bottom tray and put the soil tray on top of it. Put a plastic top that comes with foil tray upside down with some weight to press the seeds in the soil, cover the tray with black plastic for about 2-3 days. The seeds should start to sprout, water the seeds, and cover the tray with plastic lid and remove the black plastic. This is called the blackout phase. After two days, once the leaves sprout, then put the tray in sunlight. Mist the greens regularly and the microgreens should be ready in about 5-6 days. Harvest the microgreens with scissors and use them in smoothies, salads, sushi as garnish on soups, enchiladas, pizza, rice, etc. Microgreens have a short shelf life; they can stay up to 10 days in refrigerator or 2-3 days at room temperature.
Make one plate khaman from chana dal spiced with green chilies, ginger, grate the khaman coarse, add ½ cup of fenugreek, ½ cup of cilantro microgreens, ¾ cup pomegranate seeds and temper with ½ tsp mustard seeds, and garnish with 1 tbsp fresh coconut.
To Our Health!
Bhavi Nirav is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, Registered Dietitian/M.S., R.D., L.D., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org