Benefits of Sunflower Microgreens and Other Microgreens
Because of their use in many restaurant dishes, microgreens such as sunflower microgreens, have been increasingly rising in popularity. These tiny vegetables add flavor, texture, and color to many recipes, but they also are full of health benefits. Microgreens often even contain more nutrients and benefits than their full-grown counterparts. Combined with the fact that they are easy to grow at home and can be found in most grocery stores, microgreens are a great addition to any family’s meal plan!
What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are young vegetables similar to sprouts and baby greens. While sprouts have a growing cycle of 2-7 days and don’t have any leaves, microgreens grow within 7-21 days and do have leaves. In fact, a microgreen can be harvested once its first leaves begin to emerge.
Microgreens differ from baby greens in their size. Microgreens grow to be only 1-3 inches tall (much smaller than the 4-inch baby greens) and may be sold and found in stores before harvest.
The Types of Microgreens
Microgreens can be grown from a wide variety of vegetables and herbs like sunflower microgreens. Some types of grains and grasses (think wheatgrass) can also be grown as microgreens. As the strands of microgreens differ, so does their taste. Some microgreens are considered mild or bland while others are quite spicy or even bitter. In general, most microgreens taste like stronger or more concentrated versions of their full-size plants.
The most popular microgreens include:
- red pak choi
- swiss chard
Most microgreens can be found in one of the following six plant families:
- Brassicaceae family: Includes microgreens like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, watercress, radish and arugula
- Asteraceae family: Includes microgreens like lettuce, endive, chicory and radicchio
- Apiaceae family: Includes microgreens like dill, carrot, fennel and celery
- Amaryllidaceae family: Includes microgreens like garlic, onion, leek
- Amaranthaceae family: Includes microgreens like amaranth, quinoa swiss chard, beet and spinach
- Cucurbitaceae family: Includes microgreens like melon, cucumber and squash
You’ll often find these types of microgreens sold in stores in variety packs.
What are the Health Benefits of Microgreens?
Microgreens may be small, but they are packed with nutrients! They are rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper and full of antioxidants.
In fact, microgreens are actually more nutritious than their full-size counterparts. In one study, researchers found that microgreens like red cabbage, cilantro, and radish contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.
How Can I Add Microgreens to My Diet?
Along with their many nutritional benefits, sunflower microgreens and others can also add flavor and color to many dishes. If you’d like to spruce up your usual recipes, consider adding microgreens to your meals in the following ways:
- as a garnish or your main green in salads, soups, pizzas, etc.
- to add nutritional value to your favorite juice or morning smoothie
- as a side to any main dish
- to add flavor and color to an omelet
- as an alternative to lettuce in tacos, sandwiches, or burgers
Note: Herb microgreens are a super simple way to add flavor to dishes as well. Add mint to your tea, or yogurt.
How To Grow Microgreens
Anyone can grow microgreens as they are considered very easy to grow on a small scale! All you need to grow your very own microgreens is consistent sunlight and preferable growing conditions. If you don’t have a garden, no problem! Many people grow microgreens in their kitchens.
Ready to grow your microgreens? Here’s three simple steps to get started today!
- Scatter your seeds over an inch of potting soil in a planter dish or tray and cover with another thin layer of soil.
- Mist the soil with water and place it near a source of sunlight or a grow light.
- Continue to mist the seeds daily to keep the soil moist.
Your microgreens will be ready to harvest in 7-21 days or around 1–3 weeks. Always be sure to cut your greens above the soil line and rinse them thoroughly before using them in any dish.
Are there any risks to growing your own microgreens?
Like many other types of greens, there is a risk of contamination for microgreens with bacteria such as E coli.
As with sprouts and other vegetables, sources of contamination may include
- the soil in which you plant your microgreens
- The quality of water you use to irrigate your plants
- the type of microgreen
Some people who grow sprouts and microgreens commercially use disinfectant products, such as chlorinated water, to prevent contamination. Others rinse the plants frequently, up to 50 times before a sprout is ready to harvest, to keep them clean.
If you are growing your own microgreens in your kitchen, you can simply rinse your microgreens with chlorinated water from the tap just before eating them to minimize the risk.
The shelf life of microgreens varies from 10-14 days after harvesting.
If you buy your microgreens from a local grocery store, use these tips to make sure you are grabbing the highest quality of greens for your family:
- Make sure your microgreens come from a reputable supplier
- Always check the sell by date. Sometimes stores can miss older produce and leave it out on the floor. Double check to be safe.
- Keep them refrigerated and eat within 10 days
If you are growing your own microgreens you will be able to better manage and prevent any contamination. When growing your own greens, be sure to follow these tips in order to have the best quality of microgreens:
- Always use clean soil
- When watering your plants, use clean water
- Harvest and eat your microgreens as soon as you can once they become ready to harvest
- Keep your microgreens refrigerated after cutting them and be sure to eat them within 10 days.
Microgreens have a wide variety of flavor and color, and can easily be introduced into your diet. They contain many nutrients and are often even more nutritious than typical vegetables. If you’re looking for more anti-inflammatory foods, check out our Top 12 Foods to Fight Inflammation.
While they are super easy to grow at home, be sure to follow safe growing procedures and always store your greens at a safe temperature before enjoying them!