Antra Thada
Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya Raipur Chhattisgarh
Mamta Patel and Sneha Pandey 
Department of Agricultural Economics Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya Raipur Chhattisgarh

What are microgreens?
Microgreens are nothing but sprouted seeds of various green vegetables, also known as vegetable confetti. As the name suggests these are small plants of amaranth, cilantro, wheat grass, basil, broccoli, celery, purple and pink radish greens etc. Once the seeds sprout, the plant takes around 7-10 days for emergence of its first pair of leaves. These freshly sprouted leaves are packed with nutrients. Many people are unaware of the benefits of microgreens. We all have heard from our elders to soak the seeds first and then consume them. Studies reveal that the soaked seeds have higher percentage of nutrients and proteins as compared to raw seeds. The same role is played by these little packets of energy and nutrients. The seeds absorb water and all its nutrients are transferred into the freshly sprouted pair of leaves. We cannot soak seeds of every vegetable and eat them. This problem can be solved by growing microgreens in vertical farming at home or in a home garden.

Propagation of microgreens
Microgreenscan be cultivated using seeds. The seeds can be sown in soil or in a hydroponic system also. Hoeing of soil in regular intervals is necessary for proper aeration and easy development of roots. Do not overcrowd them or else they won’t be able to develop properly. For the microgreens trays can be used in urban houses as they can be stacked in vertical shelves. Hydroponics growing pads are inserted in trays and seeds are planted in them. This system is known as vertical hydroponics.Seeds can also be soaked overnight for better germination. For the rest of the growing period keep shifting the trays so that the plants can receive proper light. They can grow in natural or artificial light.Nutritional media is available which can be added in soil or water to provide nutrients to the plants. Trays should be 3-4 inches deep and drainage holes should be made. The plants should be watered regularly. Their roots and top layer of soil should remain hydrated. It is best to water them twice a day by sprinkling with hand to maintain the humidity levels.

Commonly grown microgreens their benefits
Most commonly grown microgreens in India are wheat grass, mustard, radish, kale, pak choi, celery, parsley, turnip, sweet pea, alfalfa, mint, basil, chia, lemon balm, spinach, amaranth, beets, chives, scallions, shallots, onions, garlic, arugula etc.
  • Red cabbage has the highest concentration of ascorbic acid.
  • Cilantro microgreens are packed with carotenoids
  • Amaranth microgreens have high levels of phylloquinone.
  • Green radish microgreens contain tocopherols.
  • Microgreens are also a rich source of contain calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.
  • Some microgreens like lettuce had shownhigher content of most minerals (Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, Se, and Mo) than mature plants.
  • Basil and coriander microgreens are an excellent source of beta carotenes.
  • Purple basil packs high content of ascorbic acid.
  • Almost all microgreens are rich in antioxidants which boosts our immunity and help us fight many diseases and infections.

Microgreens as food
One of the benefits of consuming microgreens is that they offer a wide range of flavours. Their flavour profile ranges from sour to sweet or tangy to spicy. The most common and least time consuming method is to consume them in salads. Eating them raw keep their flavours intact and the leaves crisp. It is best to keep these small powerhouses away from cooking or heating. Salads can be prepared like fruit salad, sprouts salad or an egg salad and sprinkle them as salad dressings.
    Lemon grass or mint microgreen leaves can be used in tea along with ginger and black pepper to prepare a perfectly healthy drink. Delicious smoothies or juices with microgreen leaves and stems can also be prepared. Drinks help us to consume large amount of healthy leaves at once.
    Microgreens can be includedin foods like sandwiches, pizzas, curries, omelettes etc. They are a good addition to Indian cuisines too. Sauces and chutneys can be prepared which can act as an add on with mint, radish, mustard, basil or coriander leaves. They can be sprinkled as a dressing on vegetables, soups and curries. They can be used to enhance flavours of foods too.
    Basil or mint microgreens will be a perfect addition to an ice-cream based dessert. Buckwheat microgreens can add a tangy flavour to home made cake or pudding.

Constraints in cultivation
One of the main constraint with microgreens is that their quality and nutritional benefits decrease as soon as they are harvested. So its advised to consume them as soon as they are harvested. This increases their transportation cost and ultimately the consumer has to bear it. Cultivation of microgreens at commercial level is best suited in vertical hydroponic farms. Using soil less cultures also reduces the cost and labour of cleaning them. Harvesting in hydroponic farms is easier and they can be set up in a small space. Hydroponic systems can be fully automated, semi-automatic or manually operated. The temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide content and nutrient content needs to be closely monitored. Twenty times less water is consumed in this set up and due to controlled microenvironment insect, pest and disease infestation is almost completely eliminated. The only major problem to be tackled here is the transport of the produce in a short period of time. To manage this, the farms should be located near cities or within cities. This will reduce the losses and transportation costs.