The New Indian Express
MICROGREENS SHOW ‘LESS IS MORE’
Studies claim microgreens can be up to 40 times more nutritious than mature greens. While it may be debatable, it is true that they can help prevent many diseases including cancer
Afew years ago, when a handful of gourmet chefs started using microgreens, it seemed like another passing fad. But lately, you can find many upmarket restaurants flaunting tiny bunches of greens, growing in the middle of dinner tables and kitchen counters. These little leafies have more to their story than their size would suggest.
GREENS VS MICROGREENS
Greens commonly available in the market are fully grown. Microgreens are leafy veggies and herbs, like fenugreek or cilantro, that are harvested when young – typically within a couple of weeks. At this stage, they are packed with a higher concentration of nutrients, which starts getting used up as the plant matures. Some studies claim that microgreens can be up to 40 times more nutritious than mature greens. While that number may be debatable, it is true that they have a higher density of phyto-nutrients which are known to prevent many diseases, including cancer.
Microgreens got traction when shows like MasterChef demonstrated how artfully they can be used to decorate a plate or add surprising notes to a dish. They are more flavourful than mature greens which start to become bitter or tart as they grow. Chefs often mix microgreens of different colours like red amaranth, green cress, purple radish, to create a confetti-like effect. Each colour brings its own unique set of phyto-nutrients too. Interestingly, some restaurants grow microgreens to harvest them in ceremonial style in front of customers, adding some lively theatrics to insipid salads.
Most vegetables go through a long journey from harvest to platter, involving cold storage. In the process, they lose much of their nutrition. Microgreens don’t do well in long transit and storage. That is why you don’t find them easily in the market. Even if they could be stored, it would defeat the whole point of their freshness and nutrient density. This challenge also means a business opportunity for locals to supply fresh microgreens to high-end restaurants.
HOW TO GROW
Microgreens don’t need much time or skill to grow. You can choose commonly available kitchen seeds like fenugreek and mustard or exotics like basil, parsley, arugula. You can repurpose shallow kitchen or takeaway containers by punching drainage holes in them. Use coco-peat as medium, since it retains moisture. Ensure that it does not dry out until germination. Once the seeds germinate, water when the top layer begins to dry. Post germination microgreens like sunlight but if you don’t have the luxury, try a window sill or a bright indoor location - sometimes it works. Harvest when the second pair of leaves (‘true’ leaves) starts to appear, typically in 10-14 days of germination.
If you had the time to grow only one thing this season, try microgreens. After all, they are perfect examples of ‘less is more’.