Microgreens vs Sprouts
Microgreens vs Sprouts
By Rob Sproule
Is it just me, or is no one talking about sprouts anymore? They trended like wildfire in the 90s, but a seemingly endless array of high profile health issues have shunted them to the sidelines.
So what’s replaced them? Microgreens have become the sought after solution for everyone from chefs looking for modern, crunchy chic to parents wondering how to cloak-and-dagger more vitamins onto the kids’ plate.
The first question is: isn’t “microgreen” a fancy way of saying “sprout?” Like apples and tomatoes, they look alike at a distance but, once you get closer, they’re different in almost every way. Unlike apples and tomatoes, however, a clear winner emerges.
Safer Growing Conditions
Growing sprouts is about forcing the seed to sprint into growth. You neither add nutrients or provide them through the soil. The plants uses whatever energy is stored in the seed to burst forth and be eaten.
Here’s the issue. To grow sprouts properly, you need intense humidity and a lack of direct sunlight. They’re grown more like fungus than plants. It’s a bacterial breeding ground with a lot of easy ways for disease to take hold.
Microgreens are grown like plants (imagine that). They take weeks instead of days because the goal is a baby plant as opposed to an exploded seed. They’re grown in soil, watered and given light. They photosynthesize, convert sugars into vitamins and aren’t harvested until their first 2 “true” leaves appear, typically at about 1-3 inches high.
Microgreens’ growing environment is flat out safer than sprouts’. There’s more ventilation, sunlight, and less chance for bacteria to take hold.
They Taste Different
Sprouts aren’t given time to mature into plants. They’re essentially eaten as exploded seeds, still pale because they have no ability to photosynthesize. Without being able to pull nutrients from the soil or the sun, they don’t taste anything like the plant they’re trying to grow into. They’re mild and generally culinarily used for their crunch.
Microgreens have more flavour and versatility than sprouts. They bring crunchiness to sandwiches, flavour and variety to leafy salads, and a sneaky dose of vitamins on top of a pizza. You can blend them to smoothies, stir them into soups, toss them into stirfry’s or roll them into wraps.
Sprouts are packed with fibre, protein, and enzymes. Depending on the type of sprout you eat, it could be loaded with carotene, niacin, and vitamins B and C. That being said, the only nutrients in sprouts are those stored in the seed. The sprout doesn’t develop enough to start developing its own.
Microgreens pack a massive nutritional punch for their size. The type of vitamins you’ll get depends on the microgreen you eat (red cabbage and daikon have massive Vitamin C and E, while cilantro is loaded with carotene). A typical microgreen can contain a staggering 40X the nutritional value of its mature self, so while you’re only eating small amounts, you’re getting mucho goodness by the gram.
Both sprouts and microgreens are best eaten raw as cooking kills their vitality. If you’re adding to pizzas, soups, or meat dishes, throw them in at the end so they’re as healthy as possible when served. Unfortunately, some experts are advising cooking sprouts to ensure safety.