Are microgreens just grown-on sprouts or immature baby greens – what is so special about them?
Most microgreens are propagated from flowering plant seeds. We normally harvest plants just past the cotyledon stage when the plants’ possess an active green bud and ‘prophyls’ or first true leaves. This is before the baby green stage – around the onset of photosynthetic sustainability.
Thus microgreens [It varies with the variety] are in transition from the sprouted embryo, reliant on its seed store, to a ‘stand alone’ organism, developing thereon its new root and leaf systems. As such, microgreens have a blend of phyto-chemicals inherited from both the seed and derived from the fledgling green plant – the unique flavour combination neither found in sprouts nor baby greens. And this is what makes them so special. This theme is taken up in the seed notes below.
Microgreens encapsulate this unique transitional plant development phase between sprout and baby green. The microgreen has evolved to survive in a hostile world: grazing animals (e.g. Insects) or other cryptogramic organisms (e.g. fungi, bacteria) with little protective armour – they rely on antioxidants and phyto-chemicals to ward off such threats. Possibly this is what makes them so uniquely tasty.
At Kipps Patch, greenhouse growing conditions mean there are virtually no such threats. Apart from the basic hydroponic solution, the only other chemical Kipp's Patch microgreens are ever exposed to is clean water. Our biggest challenge is managing the ever varying Canterbury weather – even with computer monitored greenhouse process control, to ensure top quality, every sowing is personally monitored by our experienced horticulturist.
"Seeds contain two main classes of chemical: Carbohydrates and Lipids; as well as, proteins; non-protein N-compounds, and minerals. Many specific plant products are present in specific seeds. For example glycosides as such as mustard oil. Much speculation exists about the role of such compounds, and there is at least some evidence that they protect the plant against predators."
Reference: Seed notes from Meyer and Polijakof, Germination of Seeds, Pergamon Press (1989).