What are micro greens?
Whether they be sunflower, snowpeas, mung beans, broccoli or popcorn, seeds all have a hard shell to protect them.
Seeds ready for growing
An enormous oak tree was first an acorn. A coconut palm was once a coconut. And an apple tree came from a seed smaller than your fingernail. So too the tiny seeds of broccoli, cabbage, radish and kale grow to offer delicious and healthy produce.
How does this happen? Seed + water = plant.
A seed is dormant until moisture enters its shell of protection to start the life of the future adult plant. Its first few days of growth are spent creating a root. Water softens the shell of the seed and allows this transformation to occur.
The seed itself has a supply of energy to grow without any other nutrient except water (much like an egg after it has been fertilised and grows a baby chick). This first stage of growth is what we refer to as “sprouts” – you will have seen them in the supermarket - mung beans and alfalfa are the most common. These tasty morsels are great on salads or in sandwiches and pack a punch in flavour and nutrients.
It is the next stage however where the nutrition content explodes, and the fledgling plant is known as a “microgreen”. After the seed has sprouted, it will use its stored energy to grow two little leaves, called cotyledons. These two leaves allow the seed (now plant) to convert the sunlight into chlorophyll by the process called photosynthesis.
This is why the leaves change colour from yellow to green. The chlorophyll is very good for us to eat as it has health benefits such as increased energy and helping some skin conditions. In addition to turning green, the seed is also converting the light and water into creating vitamins. When we eat these greens, we are absorbing these vitamins in their purest and most dense state.
As the tiny plant grows, it forms two more leaves at the junction of the cotyledons and these are called “true leaves”. Any further leaves that grow after this stage then puts the plant into a category called “baby leaf”.
As the plant grows bigger and bigger it starts to use the nutrients from the soil for its source of energy (along with water and sunlight). Some plants, such as broccoli, beetroot or cabbage then develop into an actual vegetable whereas others, such as kale, rocket and spinach continue their growth and are eaten for their leaves.
So which stage is better for us? They are all fantastic to eat for taste, nutrition, vitamins and health benefits. However, it has been found that microgreens can contain between 4 and 40 times of some vitamins compared to the adult plant or vegetable. This of course is when comparing equal weight for weight. Red cabbage microgreens for example have 40 times more vitamin E and 6 times more vitamin C than their fully grown counterpart.
While this sounds amazing and too good to be true, it is probably impractical to exist entirely on microgreens as you would have to be consuming a huge amount of them and they can be rather costly and are of a notoriously low yield.
However, you can benefit optimally from vitamins and minerals by eating lots of healthy salads across the range of vegetables from sprouts, microgreens, baby leaf salads to the end result – broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, spinach etc. And all of these started life as a seed!