Are you eating microgreens in your lunches or dinners?
If not, now is the time to learn about the big nutritional benefits to these tiny greens! Micro greens are the baby version of foods you may already know and like. They are usually sprouts (or sprout-like small leaves) usually under 14 days of growth. You can find full grown grocery staples like spinach, kale, chive, arugula, and broccoli as a microgreen. However, you can mix things up with watercress, mustard-greens, onion sprouts, radish & alfalfa. Each of the micro greens will not taste exactly like the adult plant. They are usually milder, since they’re not fully grown. However, items like mustard, onion, and radish will have a stronger, more spicy flavor.
How do these little leaves bring you a big value?
They generally have from FOUR to SIX times the concentration of nutrients you usually get in the bigger/adult size plant. That means you get more nutrients in a smaller package, like beta carotene, vitamin B, vitamin C and even amino acids. That’s great news if you don’t want a traditional salad every day. Since you don’t need as much plant material to get the benefits, they’re easier to include in your diet with ideas like blending them into a smoothie, using lettuce sprouts to top a burger instead of lettuce (or topping any sandwich, really) or replacing the spinach leaves in an omelet with micro spinach sprouts.
Microgreens are tiny leaves with many health benefits.
The health benefits differ slightly between the different varieties of plants you can choose. For instance, most of the bean sprouts are rich in C, while alfalfa has higher calcium, potassium and magnesium. While no one would think to eat the sunflower plant, you can (and should) eat the sprouts as they have amino acids, folate & and vitamin E as well as trace copper. The benefits just go on and on, so the best thing to do is pick your favorite flavored sprout (the sweeter & mild sunflower, or the zippy radish, or maybe the heartier crunch of the bean-sprout in a stir fry?) and search for all of its specific nutrients on the internet.
Can you raise micro-greens in your own home?
Yes! But some are easier than others. For instance, with lentils you have to have several soaking, rinsing and resting periods before you can even get them to sprout. It is, of course, worthwhile if you really enjoy sprouted beans, but if you’re looking to get to the greens faster you need the chia seed. If you’re looking for the simplest and quickest sprout,(It’s pretty much foolproof) look for the chia seed first. Chia seeds are so easy to sprout, they even made a gimmick ceramic animal “Pet” for kids to grow them on. They grow quickly, thanks to the nutrient packed seed, making sprouts to add to your salad even faster. Chia sprouts have a somewhat ‘spicy’ flavor. It isn’t as powerful as onion or radish sprouts, but it is not as mild as alfalfa.
What is sprout safety?
With some seeds, a little potting soil (Or seed-starter mix soil) and a low dish, most people can raise microgreens in their own home. Chia seeds will certainly sprout if placed on damp soil in a low dish. It is important to properly care for any plant’s microgreen, to avoid issues like mold & to maximize the appeal when serving as well as the nutrition. However, with a few quick tips, small plants like these are generally easy to manage.
Things to keep in mind include:
Clip tiny leaves or stems about a centimeter above the substrate they grew on
Clip only with clean, food quality scissors
Plastic shears or ceramic shears will prevent browning (important for serving presentation)
Expose the greens or sprouts to strong sunlight for several hours before harvesting – this will maximize the chlorophyll content for better health
Do not use/consume sprouts if you find mold at the base
In a moist or humid climate, it’s better to let your seeds sprout on a sunny sill & keep them there until ready to avoid any mold issues
Clip most greens when they are about 1 to 2 inches tall
Don’t grow them outside unless they’re well protected by a mini greenhouse or screens – you may love microgreens but so do bugs, spores and other pests you don’t want on your food
Mist for moisture – Misting ensures safe moisture levels where heavy watering may lead to crushing sprouts, washing away seeds or mold in the soil
Most greens are ready in about 10 to 14 days but they don’t grow back once clipped
Rinse greens gently in only cold water & serve immediately
You don’t need to fertilize them, they’re drawing their initial nutrition from the seed itself
Raising your own greens means saving money too, sometimes this healthy ingredient is expensive at the grocery, or appears less than fresh. Keep in mind that each one has a different flavor, if you don’t like one microgreen, you may enjoy another, so experiment as much as you want, now that you know that the nutritional benefits are quite worthwhile. If you sample a few varieties and still find you want something a bit milder that adds nutrition to meals, you can always just eat the chia seeds. While the chia sprout has flavor, the seeds themselves do not. They can be mixed into every day foods without altering the taste, such as yogurt, ice cream, salad dressing, soup, stew, scrambled eggs, and PB&J. If you can sprinkle, you can use chia seeds. Remember the last sprouting tip: “The sprout doesn’t need fertilizer because it is drawing its initial nutrition from the seed”-this illustrates the nutritional power of chia as you watch it grow. Its sprout is large & vigorous despite the seeds’ tiny size. And, it’s no wonder because the seed contains more calcium by weight than milk, is 23% complete protein (like what’s in meat) has healthy omega-3 oils and two kinds of fiber, plus b-vitamins and the trace mineral boron.
With eating fresh & eating raw getting so much press for its health benefits, you can be ahead of the curve with the freshest food in town… food you harvested just minutes before serving. You save money at the store and save space in your home, because microgreens can be grown in small batches and never require massive pots or large areas. Something as simple as a foil pie tin & small bag of potting mix are all you need to get started (and the seeds, of course!) so there’s hardly an up-front cost on time or supplies.