Specialty greens pack a nutritional punch

Jan 24, 2014 by Rosalie Marion Bliss
Visiting scientist Liping Kou (left) and technician Ellen Turner harvest different types of microgreens for shelf-life studies and nutrient analyses. Credit: Peggy Greb.

"Microgreens" is a marketing term used to describe edible greens which germinate from the seeds of vegetables and herbs and are harvested without roots at the seedling stage. The plants at the seedling stage have two fully expanded cotyledons, or seed leaves. They are considered a specialty genre of colorful greens that are good for garnishing salads, soups, plates and sandwiches.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researcher has led a team of scientists who analyzed the key nutrients in 25 different varieties of vegetable microgreens. The study results could be used to estimate levels of vitamins and nutrients in microgreens, according to the scientists.

The study was led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist and national program leader Gene Lester at Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

The team determined the concentration of essential vitamins and carotenoids in the microgreens. Key nutrients measured were ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), phylloquinone (vitamin K), and beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor), plus other related carotenoids in the cotyledons that are critical for human health and function.

The team showed that different microgreens contained widely differing amounts of vitamins and carotenoids. Total vitamin C content ranged from 20 to 147 milligrams (mg) per 100 grams of cotyledon fresh weight, depending on which plant species was being tested. 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. For comparison, an average apple weighs 100-150 grams. In general, microgreens contained considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature plant counterparts.

Among the 25 microgreens tested, red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish had the highest concentrations of vitamin C, , vitamin K and E, respectively. Growing, harvesting, and handling conditions may have a considerable effect on nutrient content. Additional studies are being conducted to evaluate the effect of agricultural practices on nutrient retention.

Explore further: Noted researchers warn that biomedical research system in US is unsustainable

More information: Read more about this research in the January 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microgreens: Tiny, but powerful

Sep 11, 2012

Researchers with the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently completed a study to determine the level of ...

Breeding better broccoli

Nov 04, 2009

Carotenoids—fat-soluble plant compounds found in some vegetables—are essential to the human diet and reportedly offer important health benefits to consumers. Plant carotenoids are the most important source of vitamin ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.