Is There a Difference Between Sprouts and Microgreens?
The short answer is yes. But there does seem to be some confusion about it. It seems the terms sprouts and microgreens are used interchangeably, but they are actually two different stages in a plant’s life.
Here is a little analogy to help you with the difference. All plants go through various stages of growth, similar to humans in a way. We all start with a seed, or an egg in the case of a human. The seed is planted or spread out on a grow medium to germinate. Water is the catalyst that starts the seed germination process, sperm in the case of us humans.
Luckily, in the case of a plant, the seed germinates relatively quickly, usually no more than a few days. When the plant sprouts, think of it as a new born baby. All the potential is there to become a full-grown adult.
In basic terms sprouts are simply germinated seeds. The edible portion consists of the seed, root, stem and pale underdeveloped leaves.
Sprouts are grown hydroponically, by soaking for a specified time and then draining the water and rinsing two or more times a day. This process of continuously rinsing a specified number of times a day, usually lasts from around 2-7 days. The sprouts grow anywhere from 1/8 inch to 1 ½ to 2 inches in height.
Sprouts on the left and Microgreens on the right
As the sprout develops more it becomes a microgreen. Think of it as a human toddler equivalent in the plant world. On keeping with the sprout method, we also grow our microgreens hydroponically.
Microgreens pick up where sprouts leave off. They usually take 7-21 days to grow to harvest stage. Many seedlings will be ready for harvest in seven to 14 days. These tiny plants grow to the first true leaf stage. As opposed to sprouts, only the stems with leaves attached are harvested; roots are left behind.
From a scientific standpoint (botany), there is no difference between sprouting seeds and microgreen seeds; they are categorized to refer to the preferred growing method they are most suited for. A lot of this thought is probably due to the fact that sprouts are grown entirely hydroponically and some seeds prefer soil to hydroponics.
Think of microgreens as “toddler” vegetables.
Scientific studies done on the nutrition and health benefits of bot sprouts and microgreens have revealed that both are good sources of bio-active compounds with health-promoting properties. Some studies show that sprouts have a strong antioxidant capacity due to their high contents of polyphenols and L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C). They also are a better source of amino acids, pectin and sugars than microgreens.
Microgreens on the other hand contain high levels of carotenoids, chlorophyll and organic acids. They also exhibit a higher anti-diabetic and anticholinergic activity than sprouts.
Some Differences Between Sprouts and Microgreens
Some of the major differences between Sprouts and Microgreens:
- On the whole, Microgreens usually cost a little more than Sprouts due to the longer grow time,
- Microgreens contain a higher fiber content than Sprouts due to the increased size and leaves,
- The Microgreens growing process requires proper air ventilation, and light to enable photosynthesis to grow. Sprouts prefer no light.
- As opposed to Sprouts, Microgreens are even more nutritious than sprouts and not as susceptible to mold and bacteria infestation,
- The grow media for Microgreens can be in soil or hydroponically, while Sprouts are only grown hydroponically,
- Microgreens are usually taller than Sprouts,
- At time of harvest, Microgreens are harvested in 7 to 14 days, while Sprouts are harvested in just 2 to 7 days,
- There are many more types of seeds used for Microgreens than there are for Sprouts.
Either way, Sprouts and Microgreens offer a significant nutrition and health benefit boost over there more mature grown-up counterparts.