By Adam Calder

Perhaps you have seen the variety of microgreens available for sale at Wheatsfield, and have had some questions flit across your mind. What is the difference between a microgreen and a sprout? Are there benefits to eating plants that are not fully mature? Why do they seem so expensive compared to full-grown plants? How long have people been eating them?

Excellent questions! A microgreen is a small plant that is harvested shortly after the seedling has emerged from the seed. The plants are picked young, when the cotyledon leaves are fully developed but before the first set of true leaves have matured. Microgreens are eaten whole, including the roots, stem, and leaves of the plant. A sprout is very similar, with the primary difference being the roots of a sprout are not eaten.

When consumed at this early stage of development, microgreens actually have a higher concentration of certain phytonutrients such as polyphenols, anthocyanins and glucosinolates, and nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K1 and beta-carotene than fully mature plants do.

On an ounce per ounce basis, microgreens do cost more than their full-grown counterparts. It takes nearly the same amount of work that goes into growing mature crops as it does to grow microgreens. The farmer has to prepare the growing medium for the micro greens, weigh the seeds, tamp them down into the growing trays, maintain adequate light, water, temperature, and then the food must be harvested, packaged and delivered. After all that work, you end up with just a few ounces of product to sell, so the farmer’s inputs must be accounted for in the price of the microgreens.

Microgreens have been grown and eaten since ancient Egyptian times, but they have only been commercially grown in the United States since about the 1980’s. They started as trendy garnishes on salads in fancy Californian restaurants, and have since moved to stores all across the country.

We currently offer microgreens and sprouts from two Iowa businesses: Organic Greens and Clayton Farms. Organic Greens grows sunflower, daikon, snow pea, arugula and mixed micro greens. Clayton Farms has broccoli, beet, and bok choy microgreens. All of these greens are crisp, colorful, delivered fresh weekly, and taste delicious too! Stop in and grab a package of them to add to your next salad, wrap, sandwich or smoothie. You’ll be adding a fun burst of flavor and nutrition to your diet!