Get to know the sprouts, shoots, and micro greens brightening up the produce section

Move over alfalfa. Something big is happening in the world of mini greens, a category in which the iconic “hippy sprout” resides. Many varieties are now available in produce sections, and even some farmers’ markets, making it a good time to experiment with these greens’ diverse flavors and textures.

Some are spicy, some delicate, some crunchy. And, like other salad greens, they’re all healthy. In fact, they could be better for us than we realized.

Here’s what we know: Sprouts contain some protein, and many varieties of mini greens provide modest amounts of vitamins A and C. Scientists think that they could also be disease fighters ― broccoli sprouts are a rich source of sulforaphane, a compound that may inhibit cancer activity in cells. Both broccoli and radish sprouts contain glucosinolates, organic compounds that are being shown to reduce the risk of developing cancer. And buckwheat sprouts are being studied for their anti-inflammatory potential.

While we’re waiting for more research, do a taste test. Sprinkle your sandwiches and salads with anything from pea shoots to micro greens, onion sprouts to sun-flower. Just don’t let their size fool you.

Spicy Sunflower Salad with Carrot Dressing
Using a mix of small-to-larger and delicate-to-crunchy greens makes this salad lively. The vibrant dressing contains only a teaspoon of oil.

Warm Cheese and Portabella Salad Focaccia Sandwiches
Here’s a fresh take on the ’70s health sandwich, made with your favorite mini greens instead of the classic alfalfa sprouts. We especially like the sandwiches with spicy sprouts and teleme cheese, but you can tailor the fillings to what you’re in the mood for.

Try some tiny greens

Selection varies from market to market, but choices are usually interchangeable in recipes, so have fun exploring options. Farmers’ markets may have great choices too.

Wispy sprouts Delicately crunchy; seeds are often still attached. Try mild alfalfa and clover, more robust broccoli, and spicy radish and onion. Some growers package them as a mix for a blend of flavors.

Sturdy sprouts Also sold as “shoots,” these are new plant growth too, but with bigger first leaves attached. Buckwheat and pea are sweet and tender; sunflower is crunchy, with a flavor like the seeds.

Micro greens Very mild little sprouts, often sold as a blend of many varieties (you may see mizuna, tatsoi, mustard, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, arugula, amaranth, and others) that mixes colors and shapes.

More ways to love mini greens

Chef-style garnish Scatter micro greens over plates just before they hit the table.

Updated ’70s omelet Fill with a mound of pea shoots or sunflower sprouts and add a drizzle of soy sauce and Asian (toasted) sesame oil.

Easy stir-fry Barely wilt a big mound of mixed sprouts and shoots in hot olive oil; add salt and a squeeze of lemon.

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