Both pack a powerful punch with an arsenal of flavor and nutrition. But, you ask, what’s the difference?
If you’re anything like me, you’re having trouble finding and storing fresh spring mixes and lettuces during the winter months. (It makes sense really, it is called spring mix.) While it might not be spring, there is a way to sneak your greens into your meals and snacks.
Let me introduce you to microgreens. Perhaps you already met on a Saturday afternoon while watching The Food Network or on a Sunday morning at your local specialty food market? Sprouts and microgreens are often lumped into one food category. However, the difference between the two is determined by whether or not the seed is planted in soil and exactly how much of the plant is being consumed. Microgreens are cut off at soil level and are often 1-3 inches in length. Like sprouts, the colorful and flavor-packed leaves are often used by chefs in garni, or garnished dishes in restaurants. Little did I know that every time I snagged a piece of young cilantro from my plants that I was participating in a culinary trend. I just thought that little leaf was tasty!
According to microgreen research conducted at the University of Maryland, the 1-3 inch delicacies were found to pack anywhere from 3 to 39.4 times the nutritional content of the plant’s mature counterparts. Scientists considered the vitamin and antioxidant levels of 25 varieties of microgreens and compared the results to the full-grown versions. Cilantro showed 3 times more beta-carotene, while red cabbage showed almost 40 times greater vitamin E and 6 times more vitamin C.
In her book, “Becoming Raw”, Vesanto Melina (et al) describes living foods. The soaking and sprouting of raw foods “results in an increase in the activity of enzymes, which are generally dormant in raw foods. The enzymes serve to release storage of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.” It is speculated that since microgreens are harvested in the cotyledon growth stage, like sprouts, they too have all the nutrients they need to grow and may be considered a living food.
Both sprouts and microgreens pack a nutritional punch but, here’s the lowdown on the difference between the two.
– Sprouts are germinated in water and rinsed approximately twice per day
– Both the seed and the seedling is consumed
– Harvested within 4-6 days
– Types of sprouts: green leaf, mung bean, lentil, alfalfa, radish, sunflower, pumpkin, wheat, chick pea, broccoli
– Consume edible leaves and stem in the cotyledon growth stage (when the first two to four leaves appear)
– Harvested within approximately 1-2 weeks
– Eat the stem and green only, not the seed, chop off at soil level
– Gets added nutrients from soil, experiences more photosynthesis
– Types of microgreens: kale, arugula, beet greens, onions, radish greens, watercress, chard, bok choy, cilantro, basil, chervil, parsley, chives
While microgreens might have a slightly higher fiber content than sprouts, there is still only a small amount of fiber. Adding microgreens to your salad gives it an extra punch of flavor and nutrition but, the larger, mature greens will provide you with the right amount of fiber and water for proper digestion.