There’s a new specialty green that’s sweeping the nutrition world, and they’re called microgreens.
These mini-veggies are not only growing in popularity within the gourmet dining scene, but are popping up in home gardens around Australia and the UK as well.
So, what are microgreens? And are there any health benefits? We chat to Bowel Cancer Australia Nutritionist, Teresa Mitchell-Paterson to find out.
+ What are microgreens?
According to Teresa, microgreens are simply small, edible greens that grow from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. They are smaller than baby greens, such as baby spinach, and are harvested in less time compared to full-grown vegetables.
“They are visually very attractive, have enhanced flavours, and are quick and easy to grow,” says Teresa.
“Also, they do not require chopping and shredding due to their small size, making them quick and easy to use. Microgreens can be added to sandwiches, salads, soups, casseroles and as an unusual garnish.”
They are commonly mistaken for sprouts; however, microgreens are different to sprouts in several ways:
- Sprouts are grown in water; whereas microgreens are grown in soil or soil-like materials (eg peat moss)
- You can eat sprout seed and seedling; however you can only consume the microgreen stem and green as it must be cut at soil level
- Sprouts are harvested in 4-6 days; whereas microgreens are harvested in 10-14 days.
+ Types of microgreens
Chances are you’ve come across a microgreen without even realising it. This isn’t surprising as the term ‘microgreen’ was mostly devised by marketers to describe the small green seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs, and are now popping up in gourmet dishes and home gardens.
Common types of microgreen seedlings are:
- Arugula (or salad rocket)
- Red cabbage
- Radish greens
- Bok choy
Scientists in the US analysed key nutrients in 25 different varieties of microgreens and found that red cabbage microgreens (shown here) had the highest concentrations of vitamin C. These nutritious microgreens are ready to harvest just 10 days after planting.
+ Nutrition benefits
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published several studies identifying the nutritional content and shelf life of microgreens. They measured the content of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, vitamin K and plant chemicals called carotenoids in the greens.
They found generally microgreens have five times higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids than regularly grown vegetables. The University of Maryland Department of Nutritional and Food Science found similar evidence.
The most nutritious microgreens, out of 25 tested greens, were green daikon, red cabbage, coriander, and amaranth. These plants had the highest amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E and K and carotenoids.
Teresa recommends adding microgreens to your diet alongside other non-starchy foods and leafy greens. There is limited evidence suggesting non-starchy vegetables, such as green, leafy vegetables, broccoli and fruits protect against bowel cancer.
It’s not known exactly why non-starchy vegetables and fruits are beneficial, but it is most likely a combination of protective qualities in these foods that may prevent bowel cancer.
“Aim to eat at least 5 serves, or 400 grams of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and two serves of fruit per day,” says Teresa.
+ Teresa’s quick tips
Microgreens are not widely available in supermarkets or grocers so Teresa’s advice is to grow your own.
Microgreens can be grown in small spaces, units and workspaces as they only reach 2.5 to 10cms at harvest.
They take approximately 10-14 days to reach edible stage.
The more intense the colour, the more nutrients the microgreens will contain.
Source: Bowel Cancer Australia, Microgreens: what are they, and what are the health benefits.