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What is the difference between microgreens, sprouts, and baby greens?

Microgreens are vegetable seedlings harvested as the leaves begin the form. Microgreens are germinated (sprouted), then they are grown past the sprouts phase and harvested prior to becoming baby greens. So what exactly are microgreens and how are they different than sprouts or baby greens?

Microgreens are smaller than “baby greens” (e.g. spring mix, spinach, kale, arugula, radicchio), but they are larger and harvested later than the younger “sprouts” (e.g. broccoli, mung bean, soya bean, wheat, and sunflower).

What is the difference between sprouts, microgreens, and baby greens?

Microgreens are not “baby greens.” Microgreens are not “sprouts.”

Sprouts are young, wet germinated seeds.  They contain the stem, root, sometimes the seed/germ itself, and very immature cotyledon leaves.  Sprouts usually do not require light and do not photosynthesize – all of their energy and nutrition is supplied by the seed from which they sprout.  Sprouts have a mild flavor and are used to provide texture, crunch, and color.  They are not particularly high in nutritional content.  Because of the constant exposure to moisture, they have a higher risk of microbial contamination, food-born pathogens, mold, and fungus then other greens.  Grow time is less than 1 week.

Microgreens are germinated in soil or other fibrous medium such as hemp fiber mats.  They include fully developed cotyledon leaves and sometimes the first true leaves.  They derive nutrients from their growing medium or from hydroponic nutrients saturating that medium and derive energy from photosynthesis using the cotyledon leaves.  They are harvested by cutting off the stem above the root/medium and are less prone to food-born pathogens and microbial contamination than sprouts.  They are packed with flavor, usually concentrating the flavors of a mature plant, and dense with nutrients. Microgreens have stronger flavors compared to sprouts, and come in a wide selection of stem and leaf shapes, textures and colors. Most microgreens grow cycles usual last 1-3 weeks.

Baby greens are leafy green plants that are harvested before maturity.  They tend to be more tender and delicate in the baby form. Nutritionally, they are closer to the mature plant than to the microgreens.