Recipes

Microgreen nutrition varies by vegetable

Pak choi, Detroit red beet and cilantro microgreens are colorful, packed with concentrated flavor and a super choice for additions to soups, salads and sandwiches.
Pak choi, Detroit red beet and cilantro microgreens are colorful, packed with concentrated flavor and a super choice for additions to soups, salads and sandwiches. Lexington Herald-Leader

Nutrition: Microgreens can be almost any edible vegetable, flower or herb. That makes their nutritional content vary widely. In general, they have very few calories but a lot of nutrients for their weight. For example, Trader Joe’s microgreens mix contains only 6 calories per ounce but 68 percent of an adult’s daily allowance of vitamin A. Broccoli microgreens offer high amounts of vitamin C and A as well as protein and calcium but just 12 calories per ounce.

Recent research at the University of Maryland indicates that microgreens may contain more nutrition per ounce than their mature counterparts. The study, published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that several important nutrients seemed to be concentrated in these newbie plants.

Researchers studied 25 varieties of micro vegetables and herbs and found that they contained 4 to 40 times the amount of certain key nutrients and antioxidants as their fully mature counterparts. Those increases were not necessarily the same for each nutrient in the same microgreen. For example, red cabbage microgreens contained 40 times more vitamin E per ounce than a full-grown head but 6 times the vitamin C as that mature head.

Fresh Origins, the nation’s largest microgreen grower, saw some flaws in that study, particularly that old nutritional data for mature plants was used in the comparisons. Some microgreens actually may contain less nutrients than mature vegetables. A USDA study of broccoli sprouts (not microgreens) showed they contained less protein, iron and vitamins A and C than mature broccoli.

More research is needed to substantiate any claims of microgreens’ nutritional superiority, Fresh Origins said.

Selection: Look for fresh, crisp microgreens with good color. Avoid any that appear limp, brown, bruised, soft or wilted. The greatest assurance of freshness is to grow your own microgreens and harvest with sharp scissors when ready to use.

Storage: Store cut microgreens unwashed and lightly wrapped in a plastic bag or in a plastic clamshell box in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. They’ll stay fresh five to seven days; some varieties will keep up to two weeks.

Preparation: Microgreens are most often used fresh and uncooked. They may also be used as ingredients in a wide range of foods from appetizers and soups to mixed drinks and smoothies. Wash just before using.

Sprouts vs. micros: What’s the difference between sprouts and microgreens? Sprouts are just sprouted seed; microgreens are actually grown. Sprouts include a root and two seed leaves. Microgreens are harvested just above soil level with no roots. In addition to seed leaves, micros usually have one set of true leaves.

Debbie Arrington

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