A Micro Proposal
By Maria Rukavina
Though “fresh” produce is available in supermarkets all year long, nutritional density decreases the more time has passed from when fruits and vegetables are harvested to when they end up on your plate. Additionally, produce prices in the winter can run fairly steep the further away stores have to order out-of-season crops such as asparagus, melons, and cucumbers. One way to stay healthy and enjoy fresh greens all winter long is to grow nutritionally dense microgreens to add to sandwiches, salads, pasta, or by the handful!
Until recently, I was skeptical of the microgreen trend, viewing it as primarily a culinary fad in upscale restaurants. However, after talking with the horticulture specialist for Volunteers of America, Cilia Bell, I began to see how microgreens could be utilized in a way that promotes accessible nutrition for people living in small spaces and as a way to easily incorporate nutritionally dense food on a limited budget. Cilia works with clients from the Volunteers of America Adult Detox Center teaching gardening, and by extension, nutrition. During the winter, the only place to grow food is in the 15’ X 20’ heated greenhouse where residents collectively grow microgreens to use in their kitchens. For some individuals, trying a microgreen for the first time is a startling experience. Because microgreens are a young version of standard vegetable (broccoli, cabbage, beets) their flavor and nutrition is highly concentrated. This flavor concentration had been sought after in the culinary community, but what has equal, if not more, significance is their nutritional density.
Cilia explained to me that recent studies have shown microgreens have anywhere from 4-40 times the nutrients present in a fully grown vegetable, especially if the full grown vegetables were harvested several days from when they will be consumed. In this respect, microgreens provide greater nutrient density at a lower cost than a head of broccoli or cabbage. This discovery is significant when considering the high instances of food deserts in low-income neighborhoods; impacting nutritional access for marginalized populations—particularly in regards to children. Schools could invest in growing microgreens as both a science or biology lesson as well as a way to increase students’ access to nutrient dense foods. Just a handful of microgreens could supply students with a healthy dose of bio nutrients, as well as a curiosity for growing plants.
This winter, consider trying your hand at growing a patch of microgreens in your kitchen window to add to your favorite winter fare. Though grow trays and domes are readily available, recycled yogurt or salad containers can be a good place to start on a budget. To check out a list of popular microgreen seeds, check out our website.