Small But Mighty
Bigger Isn't Always Better.
March 1st, 2016
This article is a preview of The Wedge: DIY Issue. Download it here.
In recent years American society has reversed the “bigger is better” trend to be all about the minis. First, it was the tiny car movement with the resurgence of Fiat and Mini Coopers, then the tiny house movement, and now: tiny food. As a fan of the teeny-tinies, I found I’ve incorporated these little foodstuffs in many ways. Babybel cheese? Oh yeah. Those minute 3.6 ounce containers of ice cream? Mmhmm. Travel sized liquor bottles? Yes, please.
This inclination for all things tiny has its most recent iteration in the latest culinary obsession: microgreens. Microgreens are tiny seedlings of greens and herbs that are just past the “sprouts” stage but haven’t quite reached the “baby” stage, typically harvested only 14 days after planting. Generally about one to three inches in height, the greens consist of several tiny seed leaves (called “cotyledons” if you want to get fancy) on a single stem. Though greens and cheese aren’t the most obvious duo, they are definitely a natural and delicious pairing (and it doesn’t hurt that they look great together too).
Microgreens are now mainstream enough to be found at most farm- er’s markets, and while there are dozens of different varieties, a few popular standouts are:
SUNFLOWER SHOOTS often the bestseller at most market stands, with their slightly crunchy mouth- feel, beautiful light green color, and mildly sweet taste
RADISH sharper and spicier than their grown-up siblings, with a beautiful dark reddish-purple color, though other varieties have soft green leaves and bright pink stems
SWEET PEA they taste exactly like sweet peas, just slightly softer and milder, with a white stem and lovely dark green leaves
MUSTARD these greens are similar to horseradish in spiciness and can vary in color from green to purple or some mottled mixture thereof
SPRING MIX essentially just a baby version of your typical spring mix salad, but with far more concentrated flavor.
It’s not just greens that are getting the shrinkage treatment but herbs too; basil, cilantro, and celery micro- greens are also often available. Micro- greens come in a wide assortment of colors, from bright garnet to deep purple and every shade of green imaginable, as well as a range of textures. Sunflower shoots, for example, have a bit more heft to them, whereas some radish micro- greens are so delicate and feathery they practically disappear in your mouth.
Not only are these trendy greens an unexpected and unusual addition to a standard kitchen repertoire, they’re also incredibly nutritious (even more so than their grown up counterparts). NPR writes about a 2012 study that appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry recounting how “The researchers looked at four groups of vitamins and other phytochemicals – including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene — in 25 varieties of microgreens. They found that leaves from almost all of the microgreens had four to six times more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plant.”
To learn how to use your microgreens and more, download The Wedge DIY issue for free!