Many of us try to eat as healthy of a diet as we can, incorporating brightly colored antioxidant-rich vegetables and clean sources of proteins. If we could incorporate more of the nutrients found in these foods, we would. Micro-greens or “living sprouts” seem to be one of the best methods of enhancing the nutrient content of our food. Lucky for us, all this nutrition is paired with some really great, rich and strong flavors.

The micro-greens generally have a similar taste to the mature plant. The pea micro-greens taste like fresh, raw peas, the sunflowers are very crisp with a super nutty flavor, the radish micro-greens have a pungent, spicy flavor. Broccoli is the exception to that rule with a surprisingly radish-like flavor.

While these living foods can have lower levels of some of the nutrients found in the mature plants, they excel in other areas. Tests on micro-greens have shown that some of the nutrients found in the seeds and nuts can grow 50 to 400% greater once they have been sprouted. A good example would be wheat. Once wheat has been spouted it contains over five times the vitamin C content of unsprouted wheat. The iron content of pea micro-greens can grow to five times that of spinach!

During the sprouting process of a seed or a nut there are increased amounts of proteins produced. Some proteins are already present in the seeds and nuts, but there are other higher quality proteins that are produced in the early stages of the plant’s life that were not present before sprouting.

Not only are micro-greens highly nutritious, they are also highly digestible. Since micro-greens are a living plant, they are densely populated with enzymes.Seeds that have not been sprouted contain enzyme inhibitors that assist in keeping the seed dormant. After sprouting, enzymes make the tiny plant easy for the body to assimilate. If you have ever had a hard time digesting something like peas, try them sprouted.

Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and radishes tend to be excellent sources of glucoraphanin. Although, in broccoli it is only in high concentrations when the plant is young (aka micro-green), up to 50 times the amount found in mature broccoli. This substance is transformed into sulforaphane when the young plant is damaged—like when we chew it and eat it. According to Steve Meyerowitz in his book The Sproutman, scientists at the John Hopkins University performed a study on broccoli that showed that sulforaphane is one of the greatest inducer of phase-II enzymes in the body. Paul Talalay, PhD., a John Hopkins pharmacologist, has reported that phase-II enzymes have the ability to “reduce the incidence, rate of production, and size of tumors.”

We are lucky enough to have a direct source for micro-greens in our own backyard – Spectrum Light Organics in Lebanon, Oregon. Ronnie, the proprietor, has been growing certified organic micro-greens, wheatgrass, and barley-wheat grass for the last three years. Spectrum Light Organics provides us with a great variety of micro-greens, including broccoli, radish, pea, and my favorite, sunflower.

Let’s talk terminology. A sprout is grown in water and air. Micro-greens are grown in soil. So why eat a micro-green instead of a sprout? According to Ronnie, “You get a live food that has been grown using sun, water, and nutrients from the soil, it is a full spectrum food.”

Micro-greens are best consumed fresh and raw. Their bold, intense flavors and crisp consistency will not withstand cooking. The easy answer is to use them on a salad or sandwich. But they are also great in a burrito, on tacos, and I have found them to be an excellent addition to sushi rolls. Another fantastic use of them is in pesto. If you are a juicer, try adding them to your favorite juice combination, there are numerous possibilities.

Store growing micro-greens in a lighted area that is relatively warm—like a window sill, but eat them within 2-3 days for the best flavor. No matter why you choose to eat micro-greens, whether for flavor or nutrition, I am sure you will enjoy this fine living food.

Recipe: Micro-green Pesto

Combine micro-greens, garlic, and almonds in a blender or food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the salt and pepper to taste, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Pulse until fully incorporated and smooth. For a variation on this recipe, substitute some, or all,of the pea micro-greens another variety.

This article originally appeared in our April 2011 Newsletter.

Photo by: ilovemypit