Microgreens, more than confetti on your gourmet food
- The microgreens trend, like many other healthy eating movements, started off in San Francisco in the 1980s
- With healthy eating gaining traction in India, a few startup companies in Bengaluru are now focusing on the microgreens business
Iam not surprised that the microgreens trend, like many other healthy eating movements, started off in San Francisco in the 1980s. Microgreens first appeared on chef menus as confetti on gourmet food. Since then, they have become a household term in the startup city of Bengaluru. A 2018 article in Mint states, “In Bengaluru alone microgreens accounted for ₹4-6 crore business only with hospitality groups and through weddings and parties." That is significant for an item that most people in the country would have been unfamiliar with some years ago.
With healthy eating gaining traction, a few startup companies in Bengaluru are now focusing on the microgreens business. For instance, Living Food Co. offers microgreens on weekly subscriptions. Some of the other names that deliver within the city are Blooming Greens, Growing Greens and BOSI Leaf. Websites like All That Grows ship across India to those who want to grow microgreens at home, selling seeds, trays, filler material, etc.
Microgreens are 10- to 12-day-old plants, harvested when the seeds sprout to give out a stem and a pair of true leaves, reaching a height of 1-2 inches.These are typically grown in shallow trays with drainage, supplemented by growing materials such as coco peat, coir, hemp fibre or single-use growing pads.
The colour, shape, texture and flavour of microgreens depend on the source seed. Sunflower, basil, beet, radish, mustard, red cabbage and broccoli are some of the popular ones.
Microgreens bring a splash of freshness, colour, flavour and nutrients to a dish. Although the concentration of vitamins and antioxidants in microgreens is nearly 40 times that in mature greens, they do need to be used as more than just a garnish to have a significant impact on daily nutrition. Microgreens also have a higher concentration of flavour—a classic example is the unmistakably pungent flavour of mustard microgreens.
Grow these pretty edible leaves at home to take baby steps into the world of gardening. All it takes is non-GMO (genetically modified) seeds, coco peat, disposable areca leaf plates or recycled restaurant boxes. All the supplies are easily available online, and so are the videos for guidance.
If you are planning a DIY microgreens project, it is good to note the following points. Use purified or RO water to sprinkle water on the trays. This will enable you to snip and use the greens on a dish directly, without washing the delicate leaves, and making them limp. Snip around 2 cm above the surface of the growing medium. Do not use seeds of the nightshade family (such as tomato, brinjals, bell peppers) as these could adversely effect the digestive and nervous systems.
The lifespan of the trays depends on the weather. In winters, some of the trays easily last a week on the kitchen counter. In harsh summers, they wilt in 1-2 days. I keep the trays in a cooler spot in the kitchen and give them a gentle water spray near the root end.
To make them last longer in summers, snip off and place in a wet tissue or cloth-lined box in the refrigerator.
Once you have bought or grown your first tray of microgreens, you may wonder how to use them as more than just a garnish. I prefer to use them on cold or room-temperature foods as they get “cooked" when added to hot food.
Here are some ideas on how to use them.
1. Use seasonal greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and a dressing along with microgreens for a healthy salad.
2. Use in a simple seasonal fruit salad.
3. Sprinkle over hummus, labneh for texture.
4. Mix into chilled curd rice.
5. Make a raita with finely chopped onions, chillies and microgreens with roasted cumin powder and salt.
6. Add to finely chopped onions, tomatoes and boiled potatoes, along with peanuts and puffed rice, for bhel.
7. Use radish or mustard microgreens as toast toppers, either over a chutney and cucumber or boiled eggs.
8. Microgreens make for a healthy addition to green smoothies.
Macro and MicroGreens Salad
1 cup red lettuce
1 cup rocket leaves
1 cup microgreens (reserve some)
1 red apple (Shimla preferably)
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
N tsp salt
2 tbsp mixed seeds (toasted)
A few petals of edible flowers (optional)
Wash and dry the lettuce and rocket. Tear or chop into bite-sized pieces and keep aside. Chop apple into bite-sized pieces, discarding the core. Toss the chopped apple in a few drops of lemon juice to prevent oxidation.
Peel and chop the eggs into quarters. In a bowl, mix the lettuce, rocket, microgreens, apple and eggs with the lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
Garnish with mixed seeds, edible flower petals and reserved microgreens.
Fruit Salad with MicroGreens
1 red banana
1 dragon fruit
1 mango (when in season)
1 fig (or your choice of seasonal fruits)
A handful of microgreens
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
A pinch of salt
N tsp dried mint powder (or very finely chopped mint leaves)
Peel and slice the banana. Peel and dice dragon fruit and mango. Chop apple into bite-sized pieces. Halve figs after slicing off the stem end. In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, honey, salt and mint powder or leaves.
In a large bowl, toss the fruits in the prepared dressing, mixing in the microgreens towards the end. Remove to a serving platter and garnish with seeds and microgreens. Serve chilled.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.
FIRST PUBLISHED15.11.2019 | 01:16 PM IST