Microgreens: Nutritionally Superior?
If you have seen or consumed microgreens in recent years, it was most likely at a high-end restaurant served as a garnish, but it turns out these greens may be more than just a pretty face.
So, what are microgreens? Microgreens are young and immature seedlings of various vegetables and herbs, typically harvested around the 2 week mark. Not to be confused with sprouts, which are germinated seeds (even younger), microgreens carry a lower risk for foodborne illness- causing bacteria, making them a much safer alternative to consume. They come in an array of beautiful colors and flavors range from mild to more intense and spicy (hello arugula and radish).
Until very recently, there was no virtually no scientific data available on the nutrient content of microgreens, but as interest in the product is growing, so is the research.
The most notable study was performed in 2012 by USDA plant physiologist, Gene Lester (full text here). He and his team sampled 25 different species of microgreens to measure the levels of vitamins A, K, E and C. The results revealed the nutrient content to be 4 to 40 times the amount as compared with their mature counterparts; the most nutrient dense being red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish. (Other studies are linked at the end of this post)
For anyone involved in health and nutrition, this is an exciting discovery, however, questions remain as to how growing conditions, point of harvest, etc. may have an effect on the nutrient content. No doubt, further research will continue to shed a light as they grow in popularity.
HOW TO USE
Microgreens are a great additon to salads and sandwiches, or folded into a wrap. One of my favorite uses for them are added to smoothies. This can be an especially great way to get vitamins and phytonutrients into little eaters with a narrow vegetable palate.
Due to their delicate nature, they are not suitable for cooking, so if served with hot items, they are best added after cooking.
THINGS TO KNOW
Some people claim their shelf-life is relatively short, but in my experience, if refrigerated properly, they last 5-7 days, which is more than enough time to consume them before they turn.
They are not widely available in grocery stores, so local farmer’s markets are your best bet. Some vendors cut the greens as you stand and watch, so they are at the peak of freshness. Plus, it's just nice to buy from local and passionate urban farmers.
You can also have your own flat of microgreens which are extremely easy to grow indoors. From seed to harvest, you can have your own ready to eat greens in two weeks. Several local vendors sell kits to grow or already grown flats ready to take home.
If you are in Las Vegas, there are several small vendors that grow and sell microgreens at local farmer’s markets. Urban Hydrogreens can be found at both Fresh 52 farmer’s market locations and Desert Urban Hydrogreens sells at Downtown 3rd Street Farmer's Market and the Downtown Summerlin Farmer's Market
Locally, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and some Albertson’s carry them, but you won’t find the same variety that is available from local farmers.
It is clear that microgreens contain a greater amount of some vitamins and phytonutrients than their older siblings, but to varying degrees.
As interest grows, there will no doubt be more studies and nutrient analyses performed for individual species, giving us a better understanding of the specific nutritional content of different microgreens varieties and what they have to offer.
The RD says: Although microgreens are a nutrient dense food, they shouldn't be looked at as a replacement for mature vegetables, as the fiber and other properties are important for health. Look at microgreens as a nutritious and exciting addition to your existing vegetable intake and to boost your micronutrient intake from whole foods.
Later this week I'll be sharing a tasty microgreen smoothie recipe that is one of my favorites to make for my family.