Sprout or microgreen?

I often hear the terms “sprout” and “microgreen” used interchangeably.  In reality, the two are very different.  I thought this first blog post would be a great place to clear things up.

Sprouts take 7 days or less to produce.  Germinated in water, usually in a jar or tray, the seeds are kept damp and rinsed periodically.  Since they are grown for such a short time, very little light is needed.  The entire sprout and root are eaten.  Have you ever had alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts?  If your answer is yes then you’ve eaten sprouts.

Microgreens (or shoots) are grown slightly longer.  Usually 7-14 days.  The seeds are planted in a growing medium (unless grown hydroponically).  This can be potting mix, felt, or even a paper towel.  Once the seeds germinate they are given light and grown until they are the desired size and height.  Microgreens are harvested at the cotyledon stage.  Cotyledons are the first two leaves produced by the seed.  To harvest, the leaves and stems are cut off (I use scissors) and the bottom (the seed and roots) is discarded.

After the microgreen stage you reach the baby stage.  Let’s consider baby spinach for instance.  Have you ever noticed those weird long skinny leaves in a bag of baby spinach?  Those are the cotyledons.  After those cotyledons are mature, the first true leaves start to form.  These are the leaves you eat when you buy baby spinach.  In the same way, you could have baby kale, lettuce, mustard greens, etc.


Spinach with cotyledon and first true leaves

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