Microgreens: Much Bigger than Micro

by Kyle Rosen-Long

As the world evolves around us, so do our dinner plates. New information comes out each day about what’s healthy and what foods to avoid while brand ambassadors and influencers post pictures of healthy foods and products we “need” to incorporate into our daily lives. However, during this pandemic, many people have been forced to go back to their roots and start cooking for themselves. To aid many of these new found chefs, the last few decades have provided us with countless trends, recipes, and diets to excite and motivate us to eat healthy and strive for our own personal health goals. However, one ingredient has always had difficulty making it into our standard diet: Microgreens.

After starting a business centralized around the use of microgreens as an ingredient, I find it surprising these nutritionally packed plants have never made it mainstream. People seem to be almost scared of them because of their allure. There are dozens of types of microgreens that are underutilized. The industry has put these on a pedestal, but they should be brought down a notch and shared with the people! In this article, I clarify a few myths about microgreens and hope to persuade more individuals to consider incorporating these nutritional plants into their diets:

Aren’t microgreens the same as sprouts?
No. Microgreens are the life stage of the plant between sprout and petite green. Sprouts are grown in water without soil, so the only energy they grow from is their own seed. Microgreens are grown with a substrate (i.e. soil) and harvested above that substrate. Because of this, they have mass amounts of nutrients from their own seed, combined with nutrients from the soil, providing a super nutrient-packed plant.

Don’t microgreens require a lot of electricity and water?
Actually, compared with normal farming, the amount of electricity and water required to grow microgreens is much less than what is required to tend to acres of farmland. Additionally, the space needed to grow microgreens is much less and can be done almost anywhere. Microgreens vary on their needs, but most can be grown in basic hydroponic systems that have been proven to utilize water very efficiently, giving the plants only what they need and having little excess.

I only ever see microgreens as a garnish at restaurants, aren’t they a luxury food?
This is the challenge presented today because microgreens are so much more than just a garnish. They have been popularized in restaurants since the 80’s, and from this, have given themselves an allure that only trained chefs should be using them. In essence, a microgreen is just the infant form of a mature plant, such as micro chard, which if left to grow, would become swiss chard, but people aren’t afraid of buying swiss chard from the market and throwing it into a stir fry, so why can’t one do that with micro swiss chard? The answer is they can, and the flavor may surprise you!

Microgreens aren’t that much healthier, are they?
Microgreens can be up to 25 times more nutritionally dense than their mature counterparts! This is because that small green has all the resources it needs to begin its growth, but when you harvest it at this younger stage, it holds onto those nutrients, which you are now able to absorb. Some microgreens are even a complete plant protein. By definition, microgreens are considered a superfood, so why can they get the same kind of fame like kale did? I believe they can, but need a platform to excel from.

The future is full of opportunity with microgreens, but for these nutritionally packed superfoods to make their way onto to more dinner plates and into more CPG’s, people need to understand their importance. Only when consumers demand they be utilized in more products will the magnificence of microgreens truly be recognized!

Kyle Rosen-Long is an alum from the Culinary Nutrition program out of Johnson & Wales University. After making dean’s list each year he attended, Kyle’s focus became cultivating food products that taste delicious, and most importantly, are good for one’s health. Kyle sees a disparagement in the world that healthy food generally is not flavorful, but with his many years of experience in restaurants and as an entrepreneur, Kyle has learned to create a meaningful balance between health and taste. His skills and abilities best lend themselves to product development, and having the knowledge of food science and culinary arts helps him to excel in that field.

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