Q: I see that “microgreens” are all the rage now on some cooking shows and in magazines. Is there really that much difference between them and just really little versions of regular veggies?
Answer: Chefs and upscale restaurants have been using microgreens as novelty garnishes for the concentrated flavors and bright colors. They’re a bit more developed than sprouts, but not big enough to be considered baby vegetables. That little extra size gives them time to develop much stronger flavors without a lot of fiber. Also unlike sprouts, microgreens are harvested without the roots. They’re delicate stems and teeny leaves, not much more. So they do add a punch of flavor and color to many dishes that you couldn’t get otherwise.
The good news is that most of them have concentrated their nutrients, too. The USDA has done some nutrient analysis on a few microgreens. In general they have a lot more vitamins, especially C, E and K. As you’d expect with the bright colors, they’re also higher than the full-grown versions in some of the antioxidant carotenoids, too. However, you don’t generally eat a full serving of them as you would with regular spinach or cabbage. With price tags of up to $50 a pound, most of us couldn’t afford it if we wanted to! So don’t expect them to supplement your diet by much.
If you decide you want to buy, or grow, microgreens for your table, just remember that they’ll carry bacteria just as sprouts will. Wash them very well, keep them refrigerated, don’t hold them for more than four to five days, and don’t serve them to very small children or the elderly.
Mary A. Keith, a licensed dietitian and health agent at Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.