Many main dish plates are dominated by the protein, which is often a roasted or baked meats. Often, meat-heavy dishes are served alongside a bright, creamy sauce or a light, colorful side salad to balance the serving—why not also balance the protein portion itself with a fresh green garnish? Microgreens are an easy addition to any meat already garnished with herbs: chopped chives with chicken, rosemary with beef, dill or parsley with fish.
Different kinds of microgreens can vary a lot in terms of taste. Some are mild or earthy. Others are spicy, nutty, sweet or bitter. Some are even sour tasting.
In most cases, microgreens taste like more concentrated versions of the full-sized plant they would normally become. We can broadly categorize microgreens based on the family they belong to.
This will give you a general idea of what kind of taste they’ll have, as well as the growing conditions they prefer and their nutrient content.
Amaranthaceous family: Includes amaranth, beets, chard, quinoa, and spinach.
Amaryllidaceous family: Includes chives, garlic, leeks, and onions.
Apiaceous family: Includes carrot, celery, dill, and fennel.
Asteraceae family: Includes chicory, endive, lettuce, and radicchio.
Brassicaceae family: Includes arugula, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, and watercress.
Cucurbitaceous family: Includes cucumbers, melons, and squashes.
Lamiaceae family: Includes most common herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, sage, and oregano.
Phocaea family: Includes grasses and cereals like barley, corn, rice, oats, and wheatgrass. As well as legumes including beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
Microgreens add volume and natural, vibrant color to any dish!
Microgreens blend into the mix while also adding an unexpected textural element and plenty more nutrients. For total flower-field-vibes, we suggest pairing a microgreen garnish with a selection of colorful edible flowers. This combo really highlights the garnishes and allows them to be the focus of the food presentation. A neat pile of fresh shoots and fragrant flower blooms adds eye-catching height to tartines and crostinis.
“Microgreens are immature vegetable greens,” said Ford. “I use them in plate presentation and to coax more flavor from a dish. They help build complexity.” He added that he’ll often use micro celery instead of regular celery for a sharper flavor.
When it comes to selecting microgreens from growers, Ford’s first requirement is quality. “I also like to have a lot of options,” he said. “Availability is also a big concern. I look for at least two shipments a week; early in the week and toward the weekend. Price is a concern but it depends on the market.” He also prefers to work with growers who can provide microgreens consistently.
Ford changes his menu every three months for a total of four menu cycles throughout the year. The menu includes both upscale items and comfort food. Ford offers specials, which is an opportunity for growers to discuss new and different microgreen options. “I generally use local ingredients for about nine months of the year,” he said. “From February on, I’m using local products. When I write a menu, I consider seasonality. In winter, I’ll use a lot more cabbage microgreens. I also go along with food trends.”
Chefs are constantly updating their menus to create something new and vibrant for their patrons' palette.
They add microgreens for various reasons- the taste, appearance, and of course, health benefits. Besides, microgreens go well in salads, soups, smoothies, drinks, sandwiches, and even garnishes. It’s because they boast unique flavors that spice up any dish while the colors are pleasing to the eye.
Some chefs like creating a rainbow mix using four or five microgreens. They then use the mixture to garnish various plates. While there are quite a few microgreens in the market, here are the most popular microgreens for chefs.
Nutritionally-packed powerhouses, these small sprigs are seedlings plucked from the earth after the initial sprouting and before “baby” leaves grow. These bite-size shoots contain all vitamins and nutrients of their fully-grown plants, meaning they’re super nutrient-dense. Not to mention, they also add volume and natural, vibrant color to any dish.
Despite their small size, often contain higher nutrient levels than more mature vegetable greens. This makes them a good addition to any diet. While their nutrient contents vary slightly, most varieties tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper.
Microgreens are also a great source of beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants.
What’s more, their nutrient content is concentrated, which means that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than the same quantity of mature greens.
In fact, research comparing microgreens to more mature greens reports that nutrient levels in microgreens can be up to nine times higher than those found in mature greens.
Research also shows that they contain a wider variety of polyphenols and other antioxidants than their mature counterparts.
One study measured vitamin and antioxidant concentrations in 25 commercially available microgreens. These levels were then compared to levels recorded in the USDA National Nutrient Database for mature leaves. Although vitamin and antioxidant levels varied, levels measured in microgreens were up to 40 times higher than those recorded for more mature leaves.
What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are considered baby plants, falling somewhere between a sprout and baby green. Microgreens are young vegetable greens that are approximately 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm) tall. They have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content and come in a variety of colors and textures.
That said, they shouldn’t be confused with sprouts, which do not have leaves. Sprouts also have a much shorter growing cycle of 2–7 days, whereas microgreens are usually harvested 7–21 days after germination, once the plant’s first true leaves have emerged.
Microgreens are more similar to baby greens in that only their stems and leaves are considered edible. However, unlike baby greens, they are much smaller in size and can be sold before being harvested.