Did you know that sprouts and microgreens are different versions of the same plant at different development stages? Did you know that sprouts are younger than microgreens and that microgreens add both nutrition and flavor to dishes?
If you didn't, don't worry. It's not only you.
Many people use these two terms interchangeably, thinking they are the same. While there indeed are some similarities between the two, they are both quite different. There is as much difference between the two as they both are from their mature counterparts.
Let's look at what sprouts and microgreens are their similarities and then understand their many differences.
Sprouts have been around for some time and germinate in a hydroponic system, usually water. They are nutritious and transform into young plants. Sprouts quickly grow to be ready for harvesting in two to six days. They come in various colors and can be eaten whole, including its roots, leaves, and shoot.
Sprouts are superfoods because they contain so many more nutrients and enzymes than most vegetables and fruits. They are also rich in fiber, which increases significantly during the sprouting process. Sprouts also contain essential fatty acids that help in fat burning and aren't found much in modern diets.
True to their name, microgreens are 'baby plants' of a variety of grains, herbs, legumes, and vegetable greens. They are one size up from the young sprouts and contain much more nutrients than their adult counterparts.
People once knew microgreens only through restaurants and cooking shows. Things have changed now. There are many home gardeners who now grow their own microgreens on their kitchen window sills.
Unlike sprouts, practically every herb or vegetable can be grown as a microgreen. They are harvested within two weeks of planting, either just before or after developing their first set of leaves.
Microgreens are however not eaten whole; they are snipped off just above the soil. They are much more nutritious and contain more fiber than sprouts.
Though they are both entirely different entities, they have many things in common.
Now that you know the similarities between microgreens and sprouts, it’s time to know their differences.
Growing microgreens is quite similar to growing plants. They are however so much easier to grow; even amateur gardeners can try it. Microgreens need a sunny spot or growth light, a growing medium and container, a spray bottle, and easy-to-grow seeds like beets and broccoli.
Microgreens thrive on various mediums divided into soil-based and soilless mediums. The soilless versions range from coconut coir to perlite and vermiculite to pre-formed growing mats.
Sprouts are trickier to cultivate than microgreens but need only a container and seeds. They germinate so quickly that you can grow two to three batches of sprouts in the same time it takes to make a batch of microgreens.
As mentioned earlier, microgreens are grown like plants. Like plants, they need soil, water, and light to grow and photosynthesize. They take weeks to harvest when the first two true leaves are visible.
The increased ventilation and sunlight mean there is less chance of bacteria or mold forming in microgreens.
Sprouts are just seeds that practically burst into growth. They don’t require any soil or added nutrients because they use the seed's stored energy to germinate.
Unlike microgreens, sprouts grow in intense humidity and minimal sunlight. That's why sprouts make the perfect breeding ground for fungus and diseases to thrive. The best way to avoid possible fungal growth is by frequently rinsing the sprouts.
Microgreens need anything shallow for cultivation, even a casserole dish or plastic clamshell will do to start. But if you grow microgreens full-fledged, then it's wise to invest in specially designed microgreen trays. Beginners may use a container with drainage holes or use a spray bottle for watering the microgreens.
Sprouts are grown in glass jars or containers designed to soak and rinse sprouts once or twice a day. They can also be grown in mason jars with screens or unique bags that are hung over the sink to drain.
Microgreens take 1-2 weeks to harvest and are easily harvested when ready. Just grasp them with one hand and use the other hand to trim the stems above the soil level. As you eat only the stem and leaves, there are minimal chances of any seed-borne contamination. However in the case of microgreens grown in a soilless medium, pull, rinse well and use.
Sprouts take about 4-6 days to harvest, which is when the leaves green up. Place them in a bright spot with indirect sunlight once they start to germinate. Thoroughly rinse the sprouts, drain the excess water and use when ready.
Microgreens are full of nutrients, containing about 40x its mature plant's nutritional value. It means that even a handful of microgreens pack a punch. The type of nutrition it has depends on the microgreen. For example, red cabbage and daikon are rich in vitamins C and E, while cilantro is full of carotene.
About usage, as microgreens have a strong flavor, you can toss them into a taco or salad, blend with your favorite smoothie, or use them as garnishing.
Microgreens are best raw because cooking reduces their nutrient content. Microgreens are really good for you and you can eat them right after harvest.
Sprouts are full of enzymes, fiber, and protein, and depending on the sprout, can contain vitamins B and C, niacin, and carotene. However, the nutrients are only in the seed. They don't photosynthesize, so they don't develop nutrients on their own. They are thus less nutritionally dense when compared to microgreens.
Sprouts can be added to sandwiches or soups as a final touch, as salad garnishing, and even sautéed. They are also better raw as cooking kills its nutrients. But some experts advise cooking as a safety precaution. Unlike microgreens, sprouts are mild in taste and don't have any flavor of their own.
Microgreens have much more flavor and zest than sprouts. Sprouts don’t have a strong taste and are used more for crunch. Sprouts do have a real Earthy taste.
You can store microgreens in a glass of water, like freshly cut flowers. As long as they are in a cool place and water, microgreens remain fresh for a few days. It's also okay to store them in a plastic bag with wet paper towels. Microgreens are however best consumed within three days of harvesting.
Sprouts last longer if appropriately dried and have minimal moisture clinging to them. You can also store them in a bowl that's tightly sealed with plastic wrap having a few holes. Sprouts can stay well for about a week in the best condition.
Microgreens come in a large number of varieties, with more than 100 types of microgreens available. However, there are limited sprout varieties.
Microgreens are more expensive than sprouts.
Microgreens have true leaves, while sprouts have cotyledons or seed leaves. Microgreens are taller, measuring four to seven inches long, while sprouts are shorter, two or three inches.
There is nothing risky about eating microgreens aside from your normal food risks. However, there is a risk of bacterial infections and fungus in sprouts because they thrive in the same ideal conditions for bacteria.
The risk is best avoided by growing your sprouts and avoiding commercially grown sprouts. Rinsing the sprouts as they germinate and washing hands before handling sprouts also helps. It's also better to buy seeds tested for microorganisms and meant specifically for sprouting.
Microgreens and sprouts have various distinct differences. They look different, grow in different mediums and containers, have varied tastes, and look different. Despite the many differences, sprouts and microgreens are densely nutritious and easy to grow even by novices at home.