You may have noticed a newcomer at your grocery store’s produce department: Micro greens. The name is a bit misleading; It tells only half the story about these lovely, lacy plants. As far as the “micro” part of the name, they are harvested while very young (7 to 14 days after germination), just as tiny leaves emerge from stems resembling swirly threads.
But, as you can see from the photo above, micro greens aren’t always green. In fact, the characteristics of a micro green depend mostly on its mature counterpart (beets, radish and peas are among the varieties I’ve seen in stores). So the colors and flavors range as much as mother nature dictates.
Perhaps more important is that micro greens are macro healthy. Studies show that while the nutritional content mirrors that of the micro green’s mature plant counterpart, the level of those nutrients is typically five times higher in the micro green! So, while a 1 cup serving of cooked beets, for example, contains a generous amount of folate, manganese and potassium, a cup of micro greens contains significantly more of the same nutrients. When you factor in price (about $3 – $5 per 1 1/2 ounce package) and calories (practically nil) that’s a solid investment in healthy eating.
As far as flavor, micro greens can surprise you. Their texture is a bit like sprouts (which are harvested even earlier) so you might expect the same, mild flavor. My experience is that micro greens have a stronger flavor and offer more accurate reflections of their mature relatives. For example, the fresh spicy taste of red radishes is very evident in both the aroma and taste of red radish micro greens. The pink, white and purply color of the silky stems is another reminder of its origins.
One drawback of micro greens is their limited shelf life, so I always check the “Best by…” or “Purchase by…” date on the package before buying. Interestingly, I’ve found that the hardier the mature plant, the longer its young micro green relative lasts in the fridge. That is why I lean towards beet micro greens. Not only do they stay fresh in the fridge for days, they have a mild beet flavor and their fuchsia and lime green colors add a gorgeous glow to salads.
If you can’t find micro greens in your area, you might consider growing them yourself. Germination kits are available online, and it sounds from the sales pitch that if you have good, natural light; water; and a shallow tray, harvesting is fairly simple. Personally, I’ll stick to store-bought, as I’ve had a lot more luck figuring out how to prepare fresh veggies than I’ve had figuring out how to grow them.
Here are some salad recipes that use micro greens: