The Tiny Greens That Pack a Nutritious Punch

by Justine Sterling
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The Tiny Greens That Pack a Nutritious Punch

Microgreens are more than just garnishes applied by tweezer-wielding chefs — they’re packed with vitamins. Chances are you’ve already had them in their larger, more mature form. That’s because microgreens are simply seedlings of herbs and vegetables. They are not sprouts, which are much more underdeveloped, grown in water away from light and include roots. Rather, microgreens only consist of the stems and leaves.

Popular microgreens include cilantro, red cabbage, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, beets and even pumpkin. Typically harvested around two weeks after germinating, they’re only a couple inches long, but within those tiny greens are tons of vitamins.


According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, microgreens are higher in nutrition than mature vegetables. Researchers from the University of Maryland, College Park, looked at 25 types of microgreens and found the leaves of nearly all of the plants contained 4–6 times more nutrients than the leaves of the corresponding full-grown plants.

A few species stood out as particularly nutritiousl: red cabbage had the highest concentration of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), cilantro was packed with carotenoids (such as beta-carotene and lycopene), garnet amaranth boasted a ton of phylloquinone (vitamin K) and green daikon radish contained the most tocopherols (vitamin E).


Microgreens are also packed with flavor. Though the taste varies from plant to plant, they are generally slightly spicy and have a delicious crunch. “Their texture is different than a fully harvested green, so if you’re looking to add variety to what you’re making they can be helpful,” says Kelly Hogan, RD, a New York City-based nutritionist. Plus, they lend a beautiful burst of color to any dish.


Microgreens are available in most grocery stores, often sold as a mix of many different types. Trader Joe’s also sells their own brand by the tub and you can easily grow your own indoors year-round. Kits are easy to find and you can grow them by a kitchen window. When the seedlings get to be 1–3 inche, it’s time to harvest your tiny crop by trimming what you need and leaving the roots to re-sprout.


“There’s no one food that is the magical cure for anything or that everyone must include in their diet,” Hogan points out. “But if you want to add microgreens to a salad or a savory toast, it can be beneficial and add nutrition to a meal,” she says.

Try using them like a booster shot of vitamins: Mix them into your salads, roll them into your wraps, throw a handful onto your avocado toast or sprinkle them onto pretty much anything as a nutritious (and good-looking) garnish.

About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine is a California expat living in New York City. She’s a writer and an editor who balances rare steaks and Martinis with tomato salads and silken tofu.


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