For years microgreens have been used as a garnish at up-market restaurants, but today they are being recognised as a superfood with up to 40% higher concentrations of nutrients than older plants.
In a recent study, researchers at the US Department of Agriculture Research Service discovered nearly all varieties of microgreens tested had four to six times more phytochemicals and vitamins than mature leaves from the same plant.
“Microgreens are nutrient heaven for fussy eaters and their caregivers,’’
says Katherine Megaw, clinical paediatric dietitian and advisor to Nutripaeds.
“They take hiding veggies to a whole new level. Most microgreens are mild in flavour and hardly have an aroma, which also makes them excellent for a fussy eater with sensory issues,’’ she adds.
Besides the micro size, these miracle foods have nine times the nutritional value than their full-grown counterparts. “This is because all the nutrients the plant requires to produce a lifetime of fruit and vegetable is contained in the first shoot,” comments local producer Shaun Miller from Urban Micro Greens.
But microgreens should not be confused with sprouts that are the shoots of legumes, lentils, chickpeas and beans, he cautions. Neither should baby leaves be mistaken for microgreens.
“As soon as a shoot starts growing the leaves for that particular plant, it starts to deplete it of nutrients. These first leaves are called baby leaves, and while it is also considered nutritious, it’s not as highly concentrated as a microgreen.
“The leaves you see on microgreens will always be two leaves opposite each other – these are the cotyledons, embryonic leaves that appear first from a germinating seed. The first actual leaves of the plant will look nothing like the cotyledons you see on true microgreens.”
Some common microgreens available include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish, lettuce, endive and chicory, dill, carrot, fennel and celery and garlic, onion and leek, Swiss chard, spinach and beetroot, melons, cucumber and squash.
Another way of outsmarting your little one is by blending some neutral-flavoured microgreens like endive, celery and cauliflower in a banana smoothie. This will go a long way to boosting the nutrients and mimic the colour of cream soda without changing the flavour.
“In order to maintain their nutritional value, microgreens cannot be cooked, they need to be added raw,’’ explains Miller.
Some of the vitamins and minerals found in high concentration levels in microgreens are vitamins C, K and E, lutein, beta-carotene, phenols and polyphenols, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and folic acid.