Well, basically, microgreens are young greens like radish, arugula, lettuce, peas, herbs, etc. But they're even younger than some of the "baby" vegetables we see--baby spinach, for example. These greens are usually no more than 14 days old.
While similar to sprouts (like bean sprouts), microgreens are different. According to this NPR article,
Sprouts are seeds germinated in water just long enough (usually 48 hours) to grow roots, a stem and pale, underdeveloped leaves. Microgreens, on the other hand, need soil and sunlight and at least 7 days to grow before you can harvest them.
Microgreens have been getting more and more popular because of their sweet and tender taste as well as their look--really, they are kind of cute, aren't they?
But now some studies show that these tiny leaves give us a huge nutritional package. From the same article:
The researchers looked at four groups of vitamins and other phytochemicals – including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene — in 25 varieties of microgreens. They found that leaves from almost all of the microgreens had four to six times more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plant. But there was variation among them – red cabbage was highest in vitamin C, for instance, while the green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E.While microgreens will not overtake the popularity of their full-grown versions, it's good to know that great things can come in little packages. As little fresh fruits and vegetables as we Americans eat, any place we can find to get these nutrients into our bodies is a great thing.
So next time you see some of these tiny greens on your plate, don't just move them aside like some common garnish. Munch them down and get as much nutrition from your meal as you can!