Courtesy Agricultural Research ServiceVisiting scientist Liping Kou (left) and technician Ellen Turner harvest different types of microgreens for shelf-life and nutrient studies.Microgreens—plants with only two true leaves—pack a nutritional punch, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study.
Agricultural Research Service scientists analyzed key nutrients in 25 different varieties of microgreens, according to a news release.
Microgreens are seedlings of various vegetables and herbs that are harvested without roots and only have two fully expanded cotyledons.
The Beltsville, Md.,-based group, led by plant physiologist Gene Lester, examined concentrations of essential vitamins and carotenoids. They included ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), phylloquinone (vitamin K) and beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor).
Different varieties of microgreens contained widely varying amounts of vitamins and carotenoids.
Total vitamin C content ranged from 20 to 147 milligrams per 100 grams of cotelydeon fresh weight, depending on the plant species.
The amounts of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin and violaxanthin ranged from about 0.6 mg to 12.1 mg per 100 grams of fresh weight.
A medium-sized orange, for example, weighs about 130 grams and contains about 70 mg of vitamin C.
The researchers found that, in general, microgreens contained about five times more vitamins and carotenoids than their mature plant counterparts.
Among the 25 varieties tested, red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth and green daikon radish had the highest concentrations of Vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E, respectively.
Growing, harvesting and handling conditions also may affect the nutrient content.