Benefits of Microgreens:
There are many foods that we have come to know as superfoods that can often be difficult to access, such as maca, MCT coconut oil, and spirulina. Depending on where and how you live, these can be very difficult to grow, process, and store.
When buying foods like these, they often have a higher price point as well, which presents its own set of challenges. To me, these are some of the factors that make microgreens the absolutely incredible superfood that they are! Microgreens can be produced very simply in your own home, and there are growing numbers and sizes of retailers who provide seed in bulk specifically for this purpose! While you do still need the space to grow in and a short list of materials to start producing your own microgreens, the setup required is quite straightforward. Once you are established, it becomes what is probably the most efficient superfood to produce yourself!
The benefits of access are the beginning of the “super” quality of microgreens. This still leaves the wondrous world of their vast nutritional content! Beyond the high antioxidant content found in microgreens, they are also found to have significantly higher levels of nutrients, such as vitamin E and vitamin C, than the mature versions of the plant. In an article from NPR, author Eliza Barclay shares about a study conducted by Gene Lester, who is the National Program Leader of Nutrition and Food Safety/Quality for the USDA, alongside colleagues from the University of Maryland, College Park, which was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. The focus was on analyzing the nutrients in microgreens. They included 25 varieties of microgreens in their sample pool of species while looking at four groups of vitamins and other phytochemicals. What they found means a lot for our understanding of and relationship to microgreens! Their findings showed, ¨leaves from almost all of the microgreens [tested] had four to six times more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plant.¨ Variation was found from species to species, just as is found in mature species.
Coming from a culinary foundation, it always excites me to use an ingredient with such an acute flavor, unique texture, and high amounts of various nutrients. The search for ingredients which bring a special texture or flavor that both stands out and incorporates well is an unending search. Microgreens meet all these criteria, and they do it in a way where they also provide great variation for you to experiment with and choose from. If you would like to make your dish stand out with flavors reminiscent of traditional Italian recipes, a bitter, slightly-spicy microgreen like radish or mustard goes a long way! Something herbaceous? Basil, fennel, or cilantro! Something refreshing? Peas, celery, cabbage, or parsley fit that in my book. Something with a sweeter, rounded flavor? Beets, arugula, or sunflower!
Uses for Microgreens:
In my six years or so working in restaurants, I watched a number of ingredients skyrocket in reputation in our culture. Foods that many of us had not even heard about a handful of years ago are now popping up all around us from small, local cafes to NPR articles to Michelin star restaurants. These quick rises can often leave us with the basic question of what these foods are, let alone what makes them stand out or how to acquire or prepare them.
This stardom can lead to an unfortunate and unnecessary disconnect from these ingredients; however, we plan to address this by helping people connect with these ingredients! We are excited to share how accessible it can be to use microgreens in a variety of dishes in your own home. Microgreens certainly deserve the fame that has gotten them into Michelin restaurants, and by the same rationale, they deserve to be in your home diet as well!
Microgreens can sometimes be confused with sprouts, but the distinguishers between the two are that microgreens must be grown in a solid medium (soil or soil-free mediums) and usually take somewhere between 7 and 14 days to be ready, whereas sprouts are simply sprouted in water and typically take just two or three days. Microgreens are understood to be higher in fiber, more nutritious, and safer in general than sprouts, as sprouts can sometimes develop harmful bacteria in their humid environment.
As mentioned earlier, microgreens provide a distinct, refreshing flavor and texture in cooked dishes or complimentary in salads or cool dishes. Because of all of these attributes, there is a fairly wide diversity of dishes that I like to use microgreens in. They seem to contribute the most to a dish when they are added at the end to preserve their flavor and crunchy texture. Some of the dishes that I enjoy including microgreens with cheese or charcuterie boards, pasta (mixed in after removing from the heat to keep the microgreens fresh), tomato toast, tacos, on top of curry, or with eggs in the morning. Sometimes cutting microgreens down smaller, sometimes leaving them whole!
I hope you feel more acquainted with microgreens after this! Their benefits and simplicity are the biggest takeaway within this. Don’t be afraid to try adding them to your favorite dish! Whether that be pizza, Tom Kha, nachos, hummus, or sushi!
Culinary Educator and Human, Plant, & Soil Health Advocate
“My food journey began in high school when culinary classes brought me into the world of creating food. I continued on to culinary school before completing a two year apprenticeship with a local sushi chef. This apprenticeship was really where
I learned to care for ingredients; how to prepare them in a way that shows them respect. In order to really take care of your ingredients you need to start with the soil. I haven’t had many memorable meals that were prepared with unhealthy produce from depleted soils,and most of the memorable meals from my life were simple meals made from ingredients that had themselves been nourished lovingly and prepared the same way. I believe high quality food can be prepared by anyone, and it starts with the soil.”