Microgreens are simply immature plants that are harvested between 1 to 2 weeks after sowing. They are great to add to salads or sandwiches and add flavour and colour.
In this article I want to discuss the potential health benefits of eating microgreens and explain why you should be growing your own, rather than buying or consuming as supplements.
Some examples of plants that can be grown as microgreens include:
A study was carried out in 2012 by the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Maryland to assess the nutrient content of 25 types of microgreens. Results showed that microgreens vary considerably in the amounts of vitamins and carotenoids they contain, but the leaves contained higher nutritional density than mature leaves.
However, the biggest benefit from eating microgreens may be related more to their functional health qualities i.e. health benefits beyond their nutrient content alone. For example, phytonutrients found in radish sprouts have antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties as well as being potent inducers of phase II liver enzymes.
Cooking vegetables can reduce the available levels of beneficial phytonutrients when eaten, which is why microgreens that are eaten raw are so good. Broccoli sprouts are often found in supplement form but the process involved in doing so is likely to impact on the levels of active compounds produced when eaten. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to sustain all the necessary compounds when processing a product due to stability issues and loss of cofactors necessary for conversion to the active compounds.
Therefore, growing your own microgreens or sprouts is possibly the best way to obtain the health benefits of broccoli and radish as well as many other varieties that are likely to contain their own functional health properties that we don’t even know about yet….and they are super easy to grow!
Some advantages of growing your own microgreens include:
The growing medium I use is a mix of spray-free coco-peat (coir), river sand and worm castings or compost. I mix up a batch of soil that lasts me a few weeks rather than having to mix it all up each time. I grow them in our used egg cartons which are free and biodegradable. Don’t separate the lid from the egg carton because the cartons are more stable when the two are left intact. I only grow heirloom varieties that are spray-free or organic to ensure the best quality.
Because the microgreens grow for such a short period, there is probably enough nutrients in the worm castings and compost for them to grow fine. However, I also use worm juice and an organic seaweed solution as a fertilizer to increase the available nutrients.
Some varieties, like peas, will reshoot if you leave some leaves, allowing more than one harvest.
After harvesting the microgreens, I throw the whole egg carton, soil and all, in the compost so everything gets recycled to grow more sprouts…it doesn’t get much more sustainable than that!
Replanting every few days will ensure a steady supply.
Microgreens are an extremely economic, sustainable and enjoyable way to grow your own health-promoting fresh food, no matter where you live.
Rick is a naturopathic nutritionist located in Coffs Harbour, NSW. Rick is passionate about providing safe and effective health care by utilising nutrition, lifestyle and environmental health interventions.
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