Microgreens are all the rage these days, but what’s all the fuss about? Perhaps you’ve already heard about their health benefits, or how insanely easy they are to grow. In this blog we’re going to cover some of the basics of microgreens and explain exactly what they are. If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of microgreens, how to grow them, their benefits, or tips and tricks for incorporating them into your diet then be sure to check out our separate blogs on all these topics below.
What is the definition of microgreens?
Depending on the stage of development of an edible plant we give it a different name. Sometimes we eat them as seeds (grains), some as right after they germinate (sprouts), and if we let them grow a little longer they become microgreens. Microgreens are typically harvested after they have formed a pair of starter leaves, though sometimes they’ve also just started to put out their “adult” leaves. Another term you’ll see for them is “shoots” – which basically translates to “large microgreen” and is used for plants where the seedlings are larger, like peas and beans.
Microgreens vs Sprouts – what’s the difference?
On the surface, the difference between sprouts and microgreens seems pretty minor: sprouts are consumed right after the seeds germinate, while microgreens are given a little more time for leaves to develop. In addition, sprouts are consumed whole (root tail and all) while with microgreens, only the above ground part is eaten.
The way they are grown is quite different though – and has some important implications. Sprouts are most often grown in a jar with just water – and require daily rinsing to combat contamination. There are only a few types of varieties that are well suited this style, so the options are a bit limited. Microgreens can be grown in a number of ways, but are grown closer to natural conditions – seeds are planted on a surface with good ventilation. This means that there are tons more options (almost any grain, herb, or vegetable can be eaten as a microgreen) and they require much less attention to grow safely.
While both are healthy options – loaded with enzymes, fiber, and minerals, microgreens have more antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins… and most importantly, flavor. Raw sprouts also have some health risks, as their style of growing can become contaminated with the bacteria E. Coli.
Can microgreens grow into plants?
If you don’t harvest your seedlings at the microgreen stage they can theoretically grow into adults plants, however it doesn’t make much practical sense because:
- Seeding density. When growing microgreens – we pack them in as densely as possible. This means we can get a really nice harvest out of a small space, but it also means that the plants will quickly become overcrowded if allowed to grow larger.
- Increased demands. Young microgreens don’t need much light, water, or nutrients and are perfectly happy with the limited amounts provided by our grow mats. As they grow, they will need more light, you’ll need to add fertilizer, and water them more frequently
Neither of these challenges are insurmountable, but if you want to grow full-sized greens, we recommend on deciding that from the start, so you can set them up for success.
Want to learn more about Microgreens? Check out our other blogs on different types of microgreens, how to grow microgreens at home, benefits of microgreens, and how to cook with microgreens. Or if you’re ready to get to know microgreens on a more intimate level, then try growing it for yourself with our Microgreens Starter Kit.