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Microgreens | Source of Essential Nutrients

Microgreens are rich in nutrients and can be easily grown at home over a small space. In places where all vegetables are not available or in situations where kids avoid few vegetables, microgreens are good answer fulfilling all the dietary needs. They cannot be the immediate magic medicine for any health ailment, but inculcating microgreens in the diet along with small changes in life style can be helpful in avoiding the risk of heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers. Apart from this, nutrients content packed in the very minute volume is a boon for people on diet. 


"Germination is a process by which the dormant seed or spore develops into a metabolically active form that is capable of reproducing either sexually/ asexually" or as simple as "it  can be understood as seeds turning into sprouts where seeds absorb water which in turn triggers amylase enzyme. Amylase actively breakdowns the stored starch in seed. The sugars are metabolized for energy needs and are also invested for cell wall construction of emerging radicle. This way, the absorbed water switches on a series of steps wherein the dormant capsule turns to a life bearing plant. Thereafter radicle emerges out breaking the seed coat and drives down in search of stratum for nutrient supply".

Human have been depending on plant parts for food needs and various parts of different flora are used for satisfying the nutritional needs of human. Sprouts are well known cuisine from traditional times. Sprouts mostly belong to Leguminosae family and are popular for nutritional values.

Microgreens are not Sprouts


In recent times, Microgreens gained importance with changing life style conditions. Microgreens cannot be confused with sprouts.
Basically, sprouts are partially germinated seeds that are consumed along with emerging root. While microgreens are immature plantlets whose aerial parts are consumed leaving behind the root and lower stem.
They are not restricted to a single family but are edible vegetables grown on soil or any other physical substitute. After the plantlets crossed sprouting stage but still have not reached the adult plant stage, microgreens are harvested leaving the root part in the stratum.


They are consumed whole as they are good source of rich nutrients

Considered as Salad greens in the kitchens, the microgreens occupy special place in Health expert point of view.

Along with rich flavour and high nutritional content microgreens also claim the label as Functional foods for their disease preventing and health promoting nature.
Microgreens are appreciated for their rich nutritional and phyto-chemical content by nutritionists as compared to matured foliage.

How to Grow


Cultivation follows conventional method employing loose soil. Potting mats for microgreen cultivation are available in markets from where the growers can procure good quality seeds .

Sow the seeds on loose soil filled in container and water it mildly so that the upper soil is loose and well aerated.

After seeds are sown, cover the container with lid to prevent loss of moisture. Within a couple of days, seeds germinate. From then on check the container daily once and water it mildly.

Microgreens eventually grow in size and colour. Growth density depend on the sowing pattern, so while the seeds are sown itself care should be taken. 

Microgreens are harvested while they are 7 to 28 day old from seed stage. So, it does not take long time from sowing them till getting them onto dining table.

The plantlet size is only a length of 3-8 cm bearing two leaves (generally the first leaves). Hence field area required is also small. Even indoor farms ensuring high light also render ambient conditions for cultivating them on commercial scale. For household purpose, small apartment balcony or a window sill can lend the farming space.

On a Commercial scale?


If you are planning to grow them on a commercial scale, all you need is a farming place with good amount of sunlight, potting mix and good quality seeds.

Unlike sprouts, microgreens have a lower risk of Salmonella or E.coli kind of pathogen contamination. Sprouts are grown in water and consumed as a whole while for microgreens, only the aerial parts above soil are consumed. Hence, they have a lower risk of contamination and food poisoning complaints. However, its better if growers procure seeds from good and authorized suppliers.

Commercial scale growing can be planned in trays fixed on racks. Artificial light can be managed with the fluorescent bulbs if natural sunlight is not abundant. Faster grow cycle of plants ensures quick returns for cultivator.

Demand from big restaurants and residential customers especially while they are fresh, grabs demand for local growers. Transporting them over distances do not comfort the end user with “Garden freshness”. Choosing this as home-based business is a good option for enthusiasts of metro cities where the restaurants have driving thirst for fresh greens.

Recent advancements in farming gave hydroponics a way in producing microgreens. Hydroponics is the method of growing plants on water (supplemented with all necessary nutrients required for plant growth).

In Hydroponics plants are directly grown in circulating water and does not need soil. As a measure of improving yield, hydroponic substrates are being employed during recent days. The substrates improve growth by retaining moisture.

Various materials are used as growth media. Peat, perlite, vermiculite, jute and wool are few among those. However, opting the substrate is entirely of farmers choice taking into account the field conditions and type of microgreen grown.

Richness of Flavor


Concentrated flavor is one thing that marks these salad greens as part of cuisine. The slender stems are consumed along with the leaves as raw. Chefs use them mostly for Salads, sandwiches, soups, smoothies, appetizers and mock tails. The tender stems do not demand cooking or processing adding the high flavor to recipes.

Taste varies from being spicy to neutral basing on the variety chosen. Dill, Carrot, Garlic, Celery, Onion, Lettuce, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cucumber, Amaranth, Beetroot, Cabbage, Radish, Cucumber, Fennel are range of popular vegetable microgreens.

Nutrient levels and health benefits


Nutrient content varies from one species to other, however microgreens comparatively have higher nutrients than the corresponding mature parts. And coming to flavor, microgreens carry the flavor of mature plant parts concentrated in the small size. So, the taste of a carrot microgreens is the same as mature parts of carrot with enriched flavor.
Microgreens are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants. This richness of antioxidants makes them a vulnerable diet in avoiding cancers. Clinical studies have proved that subjects fed on diet rich in antioxidants had a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Radish microgreens are rich in Vitamin C while those of sunflower are high with Vitamin B, zinc and minerals.

Arugula and beetroot microgreens are rich in Vitamin K and are good for osteoporosis patients, especially the arugula species have high calcium content and a property of high calcium absorption from body because of its low oxalate content.  

Sulphoraphane is plant based chemical well known to have anticancer properties. The compound is all known to reduce inflammation of arteries hence reducing the risk of heart diseases. Conditions of high blood pressure are caused due to narrowed arteries and inflammation is one good cause to narrow them.

Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower microgreens are good source of Sulphoraphane. Basically, Sulphoraphane is an organo-sulfur compound and is released when glucoraphanin (natural and crude precursor of Sulphoraphane in vegetables) is acted on by enzyme Myrosinase (a plant defence enzyme). While the plant parts are chewed glucoraphanin is transformed to Sulphoraphane by the action of Myrosinase and the sulfur rich compound is available biologically to the body. So, the microgreens supplementing Sulphoraphane are avoided from cooking and microwaving in order to retain the biological constitution.

Vitamins and carotenoid content are relatively five times high in microgreens rather than the mature counter parts. Coriander greens are known as garnish items, while the microgreens are rich in zeaxanthin and lutein both of which are necessary in maintaining good eye sight.

Beet microgreens are rich with anthocyanins that protect cells from damage.

Mustard microgreens carry the strong aroma and flavor of mustard plant. They are rich in antioxidants and have ability in detoxifying liver and blood.
Microgreens support the muscular,  mental,  heart and bone health
Health Benefits of Microgreens


                 


     
 

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