WHAT ARE MICROGREENS?
Microgreens are young plants, 1-3 weeks old, the seedlings of edible vegetables, grasses, herbs and flowers, whose shoots and leaves (not roots) are eaten whole. They have a single central stem, two fully developed cotyledon leaves and usually one pair of partially developed true leaves.
Microgreens are harvested when 5-10 cm tall with the stem cut just above the soil line. Some of the most popular varieties of microgreen include sunflower, pea, radish, arugula, cabbage and broccoli.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MICROGREENS
Microgreens were popularized in the mid-1990s by high-end restaurant chefs in . . . California. Thereafter, their uptake spread across the US, to Canada and Europe and eventually worldwide.
These leading chefs sought to deliver more aesthetically appealing and distinctly flavourful culinary experiences to elevate their restaurant's offer. Microgreens served this purpose: colourful, delicate structures added visual appeal, and unique plant physiologies brought a range of distinct texture and flavor combinations to discerning diners.
WHY EAT MICROGREENS?
Beyond the visual and taste appeal of microgreens, their widespread adoption is in part attributable to their health benefits. Microgreens are widely considered to be a functional food1, by virtue of their high phytonutrient density, up to 40 times higher than for the mature vegetable equivalent. Peer-reviewed research indicates that microgreens contain high concentrations of nutrients supportive of human health2, for example ascorbic acid (vitamin C)3, carotenoids4, phylloquinone (vitamin K)5, and tocopherols (vitamin E)6. Supporters argue that microgreens are an efficient means of introducing additional nutrient-rich foods to the modern diet, particularly for children who may resist vegetables!
Microgreens' low environmental impact also appeals. Because they are small in size and can be produced in high densities, microgreens are often be grown in urban environments. In fact, many (if not most) microgreen farmers in Canada are based in the cities they serve. This production method results in very low 'food miles' and a small 'carbon footprint' versus traditional commercial farming methods.
Proponents of sustainable food production therefore argue that microgreens are a sound ethical choice, with meaningful benefits beyond their health, taste and visual appeal.
1. Functional foods are foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Proponents of functional foods say they promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.