As I’m trying to ease back into my Cali lifestyle, one of the rituals I have picked up again is my weekly visits to the local farmer’s market. Having been forced to leave me beloved Malibu Farmer’s Market behind – solely for accommodation, seeing as how Santa Monica is my adopted home for the time being – I have fully embraced the Brentwood Farmer’s Market. For weeks now, I have been eyeing one stand in particular full of these cute little green-sprouting plants. On my own, I couldn’t gather whether they were for eating or decoration, and it took dragging my husband to the market to finally discover what they were. He questioned the teenager stationed behind those cute little seedlings, and we found that they are Microgreens – a tiny, delicate plant that is jam-packed with vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes.
This trendy buzzfood is sneaking its way into smoothies, soups, sandwiches, and salads, and even has been happily growing in people’s homes. Microgreens – a.k.a. “vegetable confetti” – are the seedlings of vegetables and herbs. As they begin to grow, they are sprouts, but once the sprout grows, this new baby plant is considered a microgreen. But don’t get them confused, microgreens and sprouts are not exactly the same. Sprouts are normally grown in water with few needs and little grow time, while microgreens are grown in soil, need sunlight, and are harvested one to three weeks of growing time. The most popular that I’ve been seeing are cilantro, amaranth, arugula, radish, cabbage, cauliflower, chia, basil, beets, broccoli, and kale.
The research is still a bit limited as to the specific nutritional content, but studies do show that there is a higher concentration of certain nutrients (especially antioxidants) when put up against the fuller grown versions of the veggies or herbs. Microgreens are also rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper, and they are 100% bioavailable – your body can easily absorb the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you are looking for the microgreens with heaviest punch of vitamins, researchers have found that red cabbage, green daikon radish, cilantro, and garnet amaranth have higher concentrations.
The risks of eating microgreens are also way lower than that of sprouts, compared to certain E. coli outbreaks reported in sprouts. Since they are grown in water, there is greater potential of bacteria growth in sprouts. In microgreens, only the leaf and plant are eaten, while the root and seed are left, reducing the risk factor. That said, make sure to buy your seeds or whole microgreens from a reputable company to ensure that they are free from contamination or harmful bacteria.
Good news for us: they are rather easy to care for and even grow at home. Microgreens are generally harvested 7-21 days after germination, when their first true leaves have sprung. Single-use growing mats – or growing mediums such as peat, perlite, and vermiculite – are considered very sanitary.
Here are some quick steps to harvest your own microgreens:
2. Fill a small, shallow container with soil (avoid over-compressing it) and water lightly.
2. Sprinkle your seeds evenly on top of the soil. *You can speed up the sprouting process by soaking your seeds overnight before you plant them.
3. Mist your seeds with water and cover the container with a plastic lid.
4. Check daily, misting water as needed to keep your seeds moist.
5. You can remove the lid after a couple of days – as the seeds have germinated – that way you can expose them to light. Several hours of direct sunlight (preferably from a south-facing window) will help it thrive.
6. Water once a day.
7. After 7-10 days, your microgreens should be ready to harvest.
If you want to take the easy route, you can simply purchase them already whole, needing to just be cut at home when you are ready to eat them, and leaving the rest of the greens alive until you are ready. So if you are feeling like adding these cute little microgreens into your diet, sprinkle them as garnishes on pizzas, soups, omelets, blend them into smoothies and juices, or add them to your sandwiches and salads. Really, these microgreens are a cost-effective way to grow nutrient-rich foods at home for easily accessibility. So, why not?