Microgreens have been worming their little way into a heap of cafe and restaurant meals lately, and with good reason. Your small smattering of tiny green garnish not only adds a little summin summin to the aesthetics of your meal, they also pack a hefty nutritional punch.
While they used to be confined to fine dining restaurants, microgreens are rapidly making their way into the mainstream thanks to their elegant textures and distinctive flavours. They might look a little fragile, but they can be used in so many dishes (think: stir-fries, salads, soups, stews—anything beginning with S really. Kidding. Microgreen sorbet doesn’t sound so hot).
Unfortunately, microgreens aren’t exactly the cheapest veggies to pick up, so are they worth the splurge to incorporate into your at-home cooking? We find out.
What exactly are microgreens?
Well, it turns out that they’re basically pre-pubescent greens. Cute, right? These edible greens are older than a sprout, younger than a fully-grown plant and are harvested after their first true leaves have developed, usually within seven to 14 days.
And, these adorable little mites come in fifty shades of green. You can get pretty much all of your favourite full-sized greens in micro versions; like cabbage, broccoli, watercress, kale and coriander.
Why are they so good for you?
The health benefits of microgreens pretty much speak for themselves. This 2012 study found that microgreens had significantly higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene than their fully-grown counterparts, meaning that people could potentially reap huge benefits from tiny leaves. No wonder the wellness world is hooked!
Naturopath and nutritionist, Jess Blair of Wellness by Blair says “microgreens are such a great addition to meals, and even smoothies because they are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are packed full of polyphenols, which prevent the build-up of harmful free radicals. Polyphenols can help also help reduce the risk of heart disease, making microgreens the ideal ingredient to incorporate into your daily diet.”
They also allow you to access the nutritional profile of the plant in its most bioavailable form, meaning your bod gets all of the benefits that these small but mighty greens have to offer.
And if you’re wondering which ones to plump for, one study found that red cabbage, coriander, garnet amaranth and green daikon radish had the highest concentrations of vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E, respectively.
Worth the cost?
Now, because of their hefty price point, you’re not going to be serving a family-sized salad of just micro greens any time soon (plus you’d miss out on a heap of fibre). But, incorporating them as a garnish can work as a shot of vitamins that you’d otherwise have been without. If you use them sparingly, they make a great addition to your farmers market grocery shop, or if you’re feeling like channelling your inner green-fingered goddess, you can always….
Grow your own
The obvious alternative to buying from a bustling, hessian-bag saturated farmers market, however, is to grow them yourself. Because they’re so small and don’t require much equipment or space to nurture to fruition (just lots of sunlight and some organic potting soil), microgreens are (thankfully) an urban gardeners dream. GYO balcony kits are absolutely a thing, so with a little TLC, you could dodge the price tag altogether.
We asked Jess Blair if she thought that they were worth the cost from a nutritionist’s perspective, and she said “absolutely, they are quick and easy to grow. Full of much needed essential nutrients and also can be grown all year around. No gardening expertise needed, they can thrive just about anywhere! They can also be enjoyed by the whole family by adding to main meals, smoothies and even eaten by themselves.”