By Matthew Kadey, RD
In the nutrition world, sometimes less is more. That adage is certainly true when it comes to microgreens.
Microgreens are tiny versions of vegetables and herbs – items like radish, kale and red cabbage that have not yet hit maturity. These plants have reached “microgreen” status when they have two unfurled seed leaves called cotyledons. (They’re different from sprouts, which are germinated seeds that have cracked open and grown what look like white tails.)
What’s so great about microgreens? They’re the ultimate two-for-one deal: Big on flavor and huge on nutrition.
Research shows that microgreens are more concentrated in important nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin K than their grown-up counterparts. Why? Since they’re harvested before hitting maturity, they still have the abundance 0f nutrients and antioxidants they need to finish growing into full-blown plants.
Plus, they’re loaded with great taste. “Whatever you add them to, it’s like giving your taste buds a little surprise of flavor,” says chef Nathan Lyon, author of Great Food Starts Fresh and co-host of the PBS show Growing A Greener World.
If you’re picturing a bowl of microgreens as the base of your salad, now’s the time to let you know that all that good nutrition and flavor comes at a premium price. So they’re best used as a garnish. Lyon brightens up dishes like seared scallops, tomato soup, and salads with his favorite microgreens, which are basil, cilantro, onion, and beet. You also can use microgreens to dress up everything from tacos and grilled cheese to scrambled eggs.
Look for microgreens at natural food stores, farmers’ markets and even some supermarkets. Be sure to select brightly colored, perky-looking greens. Or, if you’re a DIY-er, growing your own microgreens is nearly foolproof. You can get many varieties from online seed suppliers like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and then all you need is soil and a few containers, like the plastic clamshells that house strawberries and baby spinach. Pick up Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening: How to Grow Nutrient-Dense, Soil-Sprouted Greens in Less Than 10 days by Brian Burke for all the tips you need to grow like a pro.