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What are Microgreens & why should you eat them?

Let’s keep it really simple, microgreens are just young plants! Between 7-21 days old to be precise.

Why are they harvested early? 

At this early stage, the plants are packed full of nutrients and energy to fuel their growth into full-grown plants. So by harvesting early, you’re getting a lot of nutrients packed into a much smaller size. The same goes for the taste, micros typically have even more intense flavours than their mature counterparts.

Plus, by harvesting early a lot of time, water and energy is being saved compared to growing them to full-size. For example, broccoli microgreens take only 12 days from seed to harvest. In comparison, a full head of broccoli that you’d pick up at the store typically takes 100-150 days to grow. So you’re getting the really similar nutrient profiles and tastes in a tenth of the time!

Broccoli microgreens would require 158–236 times less water than it does to grow a nutritionally equivalent amount of mature vegetable in the fields of California’s Central Valley in 93–95% less time and without the need for fertilizer, pesticides, or energy-demanding transport from farm to table.

Carolyn F. Weber, Idaho State University

Why should you eat Microgreens?

They're nutritional powerhouses!

Medical News Today reported that microgreens contain high levels of:

  • Phytonutrients
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Enzymes

Microgreens have been shown to have between 4-40 times higher nutrient densities than their fully-grown counterparts. So you can get the same goodness from eating a much smaller amount.

Micro Broccoli in the grower's hand.
a bunch of broccoli microgreens
Broccoli Microgreens
Red Aztec Amaranth Microgreens
Sangria Radish Microgreens

Many plant based foods are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamins and minerals play hundreds of roles in essential bodily processes.

Antioxidants help the body eliminate unstable waste molecules known as free radicals.

Free radicals result from both natural bodily processes and environmental pressures, such as pollution. As they build up, they can lead to cell damage. Eventually, this damage may contribute to the development of diseases, such as cancer.

The body can remove some free radicals, but they can still accumulate. Antioxidants from foods can help remove more of them. Plant based foods can provide antioxidants.

There is evidence to suggest that microgreens have a high antioxidant content, which means that they may help prevent a range of diseases. The exact types of antioxidant will depend on the plant.

Source: Medical News Today

microgreens growing under led lights
Sunflower Shoots happily growing at our vertical farm in Malahide.

Fresh, Local & Pesticide Free

As the growing seasons change and especially in Winter, we need to import fresh veg from Europe and further afield that isn’t ready for harvest in Ireland. This means the veg is travelling for a number of days in trucks and distribution centres before reaching our shelves. That delay means lower nutrient contents, less flavourful produce and a lot of polluting food miles.

Microgreens are typically grown indoors in controlled conditions meaning there’s no need to import them from far abroad in winter. They can travel from the farm to your fork in a matter of hours, travelling minimal distances.

The great thing about growing indoors is that there’s no pests! So there’s no need to use pesticides on the microgreens. Also, the seeds contain so much energy that they fuel the growth of the microgreens all the way up to the point of harvest, so no additional nutrients are required for growing at all. The result is natural, untouched produce which has only used fresh water to grow. 

microgreens growing from above
Broccoli, Pea Shoots, Sunflower Shoots & Wheatgrass from above.

How can you use microgreens?

Microgreens gained popularity in the 80’s as a garnish used by fancy restaurants in California. Since then, people have begun to discover how many more uses they can have, far beyond simply being a garnish.

Use them as an eye-catching ingredient or garnish on virtually any dish, meat and fish included. They are generally intended to be used fresh and raw. They make an excellent salad main ingredient, too….just toss with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing and perhaps a little tomato. Voila! A taste sensation that will have you coming back for more!

Pea shoots on a risotto dish
Daikon Radish & Sunflower Shoots accompanying a risotto dish.

Here’s a simple trick to get ideas flowing; think of anywhere you normally use lettuce and try replacing it with microgreens for a more exciting flavour.

Want to add some excitement to your sandwiches? Add a flavourful layer of microgreens, balancing out the heavier textures and offering a nutrient boost!

Want to keep it simple? Take a chunk of fresh rustic bread, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, add microgreens of choice and a scattering of sea salt and black pepper. An easy and delicious appetiser.

Want a pure nutrient boost? Add a good handful of green microgreens to your morning smoothie or even juice them for an intense healthy hit.

baked brie with sunflower shoots
Baked Brie with a side salad spruced up with sunflower shoots.

What are some of the most popular microgreens?

  • Micro Broccoli (Similar taste to full-grown broccoli, earthy, fresh & slightly bitter)
  • Radish Microgreens (Spicy and full-flavoured, adds a great kick to stir-fries & curries)
  • Sunflower Shoots (A balance of sweetness and crispness, great on egg dishes)
  • Pea Shoots (A classic, intense grassy pea flavours and a crunchy texture)
  • Micro Kale (A firm favourite, fresh crunchy texture with a milder flavour)
  • Micro Rocket (Like normal rocket but even more intensely flavoured!)

You can also get microherbs which are young versions of culinary herbs. They typically have even more intense tastes than fully-grown herbs and like microgreens have high nutritional densities.

 

DSC04513
Broccoli, Red Amaranth, Sangria Radish & Wheatgrass growing under our special multi-spectrum LED lights.
micro kale
A fresh harvest of our Micro Kale from above.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions at all about microgreens, please feel free to send us an email at hi@upfarm.ie . We’d be happy to hear from you!

PS: If you’re interested in growing your own microgreens at home, check out our Grow at Home service; everything you need to grow, delivered to your door monthly.