Microgreens are young, tender, edible crops that are harvested as seedlings. These tiny plants are grown to the first true leaf stage. They should not be confused with sprouts, which are germinated seeds lacking true leaves. Microgreens are sold as a raw product for use in salads, on sandwiches, and as a garnish.
Although interest in microgreens has expanded since their introduction into high-end culinary establishments in the late 1990s, the main market continues to be restaurant chefs. Other direct market opportunities could include upscale or gourmet grocery stores, as well as health food stores. Microgreens, known in the past as vegetable confetti, increased in popularity after being introduced in haute cuisine around 2006. Many restaurants now routinely use microgreens as garnishes or flavorings, and consumers are more aware of microgreens as a highly nutritious food.
A large number of vegetable, herb and agronomic crops and crop varieties can be used for microgreen production. Lettuces may be too delicate, and are often not considered good candidates for microgreens. Crop selection is often based on seedling color, texture, flavor and market demand. How quickly and easily the seed germinates should be another consideration for the producer. Growers may need to evaluate a number of crops, in consultation with end-user markets, before selecting the ones most suitable to their production system and market.