Miniature greens with maximum nutrition

By Staff Writer • Published: November 26th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

During the holidays, it can be difficult to eat your vegetables — especially since they’re competing with hot chocolate and gingerbread. So make the veggies you do eat count.

Microgreens are leafy salad plants such as lettuce, mustard and kale that are harvested one to two weeks after germination, when they’re only a few inches tall. Not to be confused with sprouts, which are simply germinated seeds soaked in water, microgreens require soil, sunlight and at least seven days to grow roots and leaves.

A new study by researchers at the University of Maryland is the first to scientifically analyze and compare these infant plants. Although there was variation among the 25 microgreens in the study, they typically had four to six times more nutrients and vitamins than their full-grown counterparts. The difference is even starker in some cases; red cabbage microgreens, for instance, have 40 times more vitamin E than their adult incarnation. Red cabbage also contains a high level of vitamin C, as does green daikon (DIE-con) radish and opal basil microgreens. Vitamin K is most concentrated in garnet amaranth and red sorrel.

So how can you include these super-powered mini-greens in your meals? Essentially, the same way you use the adult versions: on top of sandwiches, wraps and pizzas or mixed into casseroles and salads.

Microgreens also vary in color and taste, but the flavor is usually concentrated and strong. Sunflower microgreens are often nutty, while arugula and radish tend to be peppery. For sweetness, try basil or clover. An increasing number of chefs are using microgreens in their dishes for an extra shot of color and taste.

So when your festive feasting could use a boost of nutrition, consider the little greens that go a long way.