Foods to Feed the World: Microgreens

Microgreens started out as fashionable additions to gourmet food, and became known as ‘vegetable confetti’. However, recent studies show that these little vegetables are not only nutritional powerhouses, but also can help provide food security globally.

Microgreens are very young vegetables. They are grown by sprouting different varieties of edible vegetable species, including herbs, common vegetables (e.g. leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables) and wild edible species. They are small, have delicate textures, and distinctive flavours.

These young vegetables are similar to, but no the same as sprouts. While sprouts are mainly grown in dark moist environments, microgreens are grown in light, cooler, and less humid environments. Sprouts are notorious for their risk of contamination Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria with can lead to food poisoning, however this is not the case with microgreens.

Nutritional profile

Microgreens vary in their nutritional composition, but many types are rich in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper.

Studies have shown that microgreens have higher concentrations of nutrients than their fully-grown versions. For this reason, smaller amounts may provide similar nutritional effects compared to larger quantities of mature vegetables.

Microgreens also grow very quickly. Within 10 days of ‘planting’ the seed, the microgreen is ready to harvest. In a short time, microgreens can provide people with essential nutrients.

Sustainability

Microgreens can be grown in a variety of environments: in controlled indoor spaces (e.g. greenhouses, vertical farms), outdoors, in soil or an alternative medium (e.g. aquaponics) with natural or artificial lighting. On top of that, they can be grown year round.

This means that people in food desserts can have easier access to fresh, nutrient-rich vegetables. It also means that these vegetables can be grown in difficult environmental conditions (in areas with high soil desertification).

Because they are ready to harvest in just over a week, there is little need for fertilizer.

These small nutrition bombs of course do not contain enough calories to play a large role in a meal, however the vitamin and mineral boost is invaluable considering their low environmental footprint.

Do-it-yourself

As these little greens do not need much space, nutrition, or lots of care, they are also easy to grow at home. The added benefit of this is that the sooner they are consumed after being harvested, the more micronutrients they retain.

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