Microgreens are superior than sprouts in every way. If you're already dedicated shelving to sprouts, the conversion to microgreens takes no more than stringing together some lights, and buying growing medium. For those not aware of the difference between microgreens and sprouts, microgreens are seedlings grown in a low humidity and high light availability with a growing medium, while sprouts do not require light or growing medium.
Microgreens taste better than sprouts hands down. They taste better because they are grown in a high light and low humidity environment. Microgreens have a more complex flavor and less watery texture than sprouts.
There is no way to avoid the watery texture of sprouts. The most common menthod of growing sprouts is that you soak the seeds for a couple of hours in a jar, drain excess water and close the jar for a couple of days.
Closing the jar kees the humidity high. High humidity is very important to growing sprouts because of the lack of growing medium. Seedlings die the moment that their roots are dried out, and it's no different with sprouts.
When growing microgreens, we use a growing medium every step of the way. This allows for the leafy greens to remain in a low humidity environment, while delivering nutrients and water to the roots via the growing medium. Moreover, we can also enrich the growing medium with minerals and fertilizers.
When a plant's energy reserves are depleted, it begins to consume itself in a process known as autophagy. The only source of energy for plants are carbohydrates derived from photosynthesis. Prior to germination, plants rely on the carbohydrates and fats stored in their cotyledons to grow.
This is why most sprouts are harvested at about 3 to 5 days, at which point their cotyledons are fully depleted. At this point, you’re can either harvest the sprouts or they will start to lose their nutrients rapidly.
Microgreens are grown under full light. This allwos microgreens to grow beyond the 3 to 5 days timeframe, while also increasing nutrient quality. A study on sprouts showed that amaranth and quinoa grown in daylight have higher antioxidant activity (1). But growing sprouts with full light is very difficult.
Moreover, because you grow microgreens in a medium, you can add nutrients and minerals such as selenium in order to further enrich the mineral quality of your vegetable.
There are more varieties of microgreens because you can grow them longer. Some species of plants have a low germination rate, and even slower growth.
Sprouters specialize on plants that grow fast with large starchy energy reserves. Therefore the most common sprouts people grow are grains and legumes such as bean sprouts, buckwheat and quinoa.
But every plants that you can sprout can also be grown as microgreens. And with sprouts such as broccoli or kale, the cost of seeds is going to hurt your wallet since their sprouts are going to yeild a lot less greens than microgreens.
It’s really not practical to harvest broccoli at the one week stage. Moreover, you can grow microgreen herbs such as basil, where you need at least 2 weeks of growth to harvest it.
The only limiting factor for growing microgreens is space. It takes more space than sprouts because you can't really stack microgreen containers and lighting as efficiently as sprouts.
If you’re anything like me, you’re lazy. I don't want to start growing a microgreen container every day. The problem with sprouts is that you really have to time everything right. If you want to eat it by Tuesday, you have to grow the batch exactly the week before and put it in the Tuesday jar and so on. Or else it's going to start dying.
But if you’re growing microgreens, you have a lot of leeway. I can fill up my whole tray for an entire week on the weekends. As long as the plants aren’t water, nutrient or light limited, the microgreens can just grow happily while I harvest the containers a little section at a time.
As long as you don't seed the containers too dense, the plants won't be stressed if they are overgrown by a week. The best stage to harvest the microgreens are at their exponential state of growing, so it's very important to not overcrowd the growing containers.
Microgreens are really the set and forget type of growing. You only water them twice a week and automate the lighting interval with a light timer.
Sprouts are very difficult to transplant because plant roots are very sensitive. A very light touch is required if you want to transplant it to a growing medium. With microgreens, the growing medium can be transplanted into a bigger container.
Also, growing seedlings is normally very wasteful. Overseeding is a common practice to prevent empty slots. With microgreens, now you can just harvest around the plants that you want to transplant outside. This way, you're not left with old seeds from the previous season.
I am the author of this website and owner of growyourmicrogreens.com. I am an hobbyist gardener and a passionate scientist. I was trained as a scientist in the Molecular Genetics program in University of Toronto, where I received my Masters of Science and published a journal article.