Petite microgreens have been increasingly used over the past 20 to 30 years, especially in upscale restaurants. Fine dining restaurants make up about 10% of total American restaurant sales, and those sales have been up 3% over the past year. This means that while only a small segment of the population has had regular exposure to this specialty produce product, the exposure has been steadily increasing. Petite microgreens are now becoming far more mainstream, which has led to some confusion as to what a microgreen actually is and how it should be used.
What are Microgreens?
Petite microgreens are not sprouts. This seems to be the biggest misconception. Sprouts are grown close together in water and are not fully formed plants. The conditions under which sprouts are produced facilitate bacteria growth and have caused concern about food born illnesses. The constant low level of light, moist environment, and crowded conditions are the opposite of how petite microgreens are grown. Ideal growing conditions for microgreens require abundant light, rich soil or soil substitute, and good air flow. They grow over the course of a few weeks and once the leaves have fully opened, they are ready for harvest. The leaves are cut just above the surface of the soil, packaged without roots, and delivered to their destination to be enjoyed. Microgreens are simply very young versions of plants and herbs everyone is already familiar with. However, because they are quite young they have slightly different flavor profiles and textures than their mature counterparts.
Uses for Microgreens
Adding microgreens to salads is an excellent way to add texture and complex flavor profiles to the opening act of a meal. This is perhaps the easiest way to become accustomed to the world of petite microgreens without feeling overwhelmed. There are many varieties of micgrogreens to experiment with. Indeed, any edible greens from an herb, vegetable, or other plant can be considered a microgreen, if it is harvested within the appropriate time frame. The flavor profiles of these plants vary based on the type selected, however, they tend to be quite intense considering the petite size. It is important to note, however, that the flavor will not be as developed as the mature form of the plant. This is perhaps the draw of some forms of microplants and is why they are used to develop layers of flavors within salads and other dishes. They make excellent accents and can leave a remarkably fresh note on the palate.