From a good restaurant to the middle class table top, the menu today includes the freshly cut, tiny pieces of green, as they beautifully call it - THE MICROGREEN. Over the years, microgreen’s have set a new culinary trend. Why are they so favourable to the new generation? What is it and why are they special?
Recently, people have shown a good extend of interest in consuming food products with high amount of bioactive (Chlorophyll, Total Flavonoids, Total Phenols) substances. Herein, microgreen’s are a rich source of nutrients such as Calcium (Ca), Iron (Fe), Zinc (Zn), Magnesium (Mg), Potassium (K), Ascorbic acid, tocopherols and betacarotene thus making them a super food. In this sense, they have been identified as one among the major food, which possess bioactive compounds that favor the health and nutrition of humans.
Studies by Punjab Agricultural University reveal microgreens to be a good to moderate source of β- carotene and vitamin C; an excellent source of Zn, Ca, Fe and Mg, with the percent Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) fulfillment of 122-160%, 139-260%, 122-228%, and 157-218%, respectively, for Indian adults. The Nutrient Quality Score (NQS) 7.1 revealed the microgreens to be 1.5- to 2-fold more nutrient-dense than mature leaves.
Microgreen has now become an emerging trend in the global food market. Generally speaking, common man is still unaware of the basic concept of microgreen and they find the name, anomalous to chemical components.
In reality, what are these microgreen’s? They are nothing but, “baby greens”, the sprouted version of edible vegetables or herbs, with a central stem and a pair of small true leaves, usually of the size 2.5 to 3 cm.
They are consumable immature greens with a young and tender cotyledonary leafy greens (the primary or rudimentary leaf of the seed plants) harvested after 7-21 days of germination depending upon their species.
Sprouts are simply seeds that have germinated while microgreens undergo a different planting and growth process that allows them to grow fully developed stems and leaves, allowing them to possess a significantly rich nutritional composition than sprouts. Sprouts are harvested within 2-5 days whereas, microgreens
are harvested between 7-21 days depending on the type of vegetable.
Microgreens are much healthier, has more nutritional value and enhanced taste than sprouts as they are concentrated with enzymes, flavonoids and natural flavour. The potential for bacteria growth is much lower in micro greens than in comparison to sprouts. Microgreens require slightly less warm and humid conditions than sprouts do, and only the leaf and stem are consumed.
Nowadays, the increasing demand for this product has made industrial sector move into commercialization of microgreen production.
The palatability of the product varies with the species, colour, days of harvest, quality of planting material used etc. Among the different types of microgreen’s under cultivation, peas, beans, red cabbage, kale, pumpkin, raddish, spinach etc. receives greater attraction. Generally, they are grown in controlled indoor environmental conditions, where light, temperature and relative humidity are artificially set. For urban dwellers, an option of vertical farming of microgreens are being provided by major hotel-restaurant chains, where the cultivation is done on contract basis. They can be grown with minimum inputs and zero pesticide application.
The growing medium is composed of a mixture of soil and potting mixture (coir pith micronutrient-compost) or peat moss. Seeds prior to planting are primed for nearly 7-12 hours based on the species chosen for cultivation. Typically, they are harvested in a gap of 7-14 days under tropical conditions depending on the appearance of the first set of true leaves. To optimize nutrient composition in microgreens, it is suggested to soak the seeds (carrot, broccoli, spinach and coriander) overnight, cultivate outdoors, and harvest at an early stage (10th day). The harvested product is highly perishable and its marketability depends on its freshness, flavor and colour. Hence, harvesting, storing, packaging and transportation of the product is the most important criteria to be considered while cultivating microgreen. Usually they are stored in plastic clamshell containers, but major reduction in its quality is witnessed while storing in such containers.
Theerefore, a proper study on the cultivation aspects of microgreen, its marketability and industrial value is thus the need of the hour.
Last Modified : 7/31/2023
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