Small Wonders: Microgreens are more than just a pretty garnish

By Jagmeeta Thind Joy

You must have heard that good things come in small packages. It holds perfectly true for microgreens. They may be petite looking greens but they sure pack in a nutritional punch. Tiny in size, they vary between one to three inches in height but are loaded with essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants too. “While globally, everyone is well aware of their wondrous properties, awareness is still fairly low among most Indians,” says Rohini Mahajan. A Chandigarh-based ‘urban farmer’, Mahajan specialises in growing microgreens and exotic vegetables. She is also the founder of Leaf & Life that brings microgreens to your doorstep.

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Rohini Mahajan of Leaf & Life

“Microgreens are 40 times more nutrient dense than their mature counterparts. And it’s very easy to make them a part of all your meals,” says Mahajan who hosted a unique workshop in Chandigarh recently. ‘Rendezvous with Microgreens’ organised at Lazy Shack in Sector 26 discussed not just the health benefits of microgreens but also showcased a line-up of dishes made using the greens. Mahajan got on board Chef Anukriti Jhamb and well-known nutritionist Sangeeta Singh for the event that saw the city’s social set, including young mothers, in attendance.

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‘Rendezvous with Microgreens’ at Lazy Shack, Sector 26, Chandigarh

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But first, what are microgreens?

For the unaware, microgreens are essentially young vegetables such as radish, celery, basil, broccoli and beetroot that are picked just after the first leaves have developed. They have delicate textures and distinctive flavours which can go from sweet to pungent. “Just a fistful of these greens will go a long way in increasing the nutritional content of your meals,” assures Mahajan who feels it’s important to use them every day and not just as an occasional garnish.

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“The flavours are unique and some palates may take a while getting used to them. Eating healthy is a habit that can be inculcated. According to statistics, you just need to try it for 21 days to become a habit,” says Mahajan.

The health factor

According to latest studies, kale, cress and broccoli microgreens can help in preventing cancer. “That’s because they contain sulforaphane, a cancer fighting compound in larger quantities than adult plants,” explains Mahajan. Not many would be aware that these little plants pack in substantial levels of protein too. For instance, sunflower microgreens contain 24 per cent to 30 per cent protein while radish microgreens are a rich source of vitamin A.

“Our energy levels and skin reflect what we eat. Clean eating is essential in today’s times and also sourcing it right,” pointed out Sangeeta Singh as she addressed the gathering. With rising levels of pollution and pesticides in the food, Singh also highlighted the importance of microgreens in daily diets. “Since they are packed with antioxidants they help reduce radicals in our body,” Singh added.

So how do you include it in your diet?

Microgreens are best eaten raw. As Chef Anukriti Jhamb showcased at the live cooking event, microgreens can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, including sandwiches, wraps and salads. They can also be blended into smoothies or juiced. Wheatgrass juice is a popular example of a juiced microgreen. “They go well in making hummus and salads. Did you know that you can also make cupcakes with sunflower shoots in the dough?” said Jhamb as she demonstrated a unique ‘cake’ made using foccacia bread and microgreens at the event. Microgreens also lend themselves well to pizzas, soups, omelettes and curries too. “You can add them before serving vegetables and include in your raita too,” adds Mahajan.

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The menu for the event brought in ‘Lemon slush with sunflower shoots’, ‘Mojito with purple basil microgreens’, ‘Hummus and Tzatki made using microgreens’, ‘Quinoa salad with microgreens’, ‘Sliders with purple radish microgreens’ , canapes and dimsums with microgreens too.

“Research shows that microgreens help the body in beating infections and build up immunity. It’s important to include it in our children’s diet at an early age. All we need to do is make a start,” summed up Mahajan.

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