Microgreens vs. Sprouts: Understanding the Difference

Microgreens vs. Sprouts: Understanding the Difference


Microgreens are a type of edible vegetable that is harvested shortly after germination, typically within 7-14 days. They are harvested before they reach the "baby leaf" stage and have not yet developed their full set of leaves. While these immature plants are technically considered baby greens, they differ distinctly from sprouts in terms of nutrition, flavor, and texture.

Nutritionally, microgreens are more nutrient-dense than mature plants. Studies have found that some microgreens provide four to six times the nutrients of mature greens. This is due to the fact that they are harvested at such an early point in their growth cycle.

These baby plants generally also have a much more intense flavor than their fully-grown counterparts. The intense flavor makes them ideal for use in salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and other dishes.



Sprouts are the germinated seeds of various vegetables, legumes, and grains. They are harvested shortly after being placed in water and typically take 3-6 days to reach maturity. Like microgreens, sprouts are highly nutritious; they contain high concentrations of vitamins A, B, C, and E.

The flavor of sprouts is much milder than that of microgreens, making them better suited for garnishes or salads. Sprouts are also much softer than microgreens and can be eaten raw without issue.


Difference between Microgreens and Sprouts

Microgreens and sprouts are both young, edible plants that have become increasingly popular in recent years. While both are nutritional powerhouses, they differ in terms of taste, texture, and growing process.

Sprouts are germinated seeds that have just begun to grow; usually when the first true leaves appear. They can be grown from a variety of different seed types including legumes, grains, and vegetables. Unlike microgreens, sprouts are usually harvested at a much earlier stage in their growth cycle; typically when only the first leaves appear. Sprouts tend to be milder in flavor than microgreens and are often used as garnishes or eaten raw in salads.

Microgreens, on the other hand, are harvested after the seedling has grown its first two sets of true leaves. They are usually harvested within 7-14 days after germination and tend to have a much more intense flavor than sprouts. Microgreens are also typically higher in nutrition than their fully-grown counterparts due to the fact that they are harvested at such an early stage in their growth cycle.

Microgreens and sprouts are both highly nutritious and have become increasingly popular in recent years. While they are similar in that they are both young edible plants, there are distinct differences between the two in terms of taste, texture, and their growing processes. Sprouts tend to have a mild flavor than microgreens and can be eaten raw without issue. Microgreens, on the other hand, have a much more intense flavor and are usually higher in nutrients due to their early harvest.

Growing Conditions for Microgreens and Sprouts

Microgreens and sprouts are both edible plants that can be grown indoors or outdoors. However, they have different growing requirements and require different care.

Microgreens are small, immature greens that are harvested after the first true leaves have developed. Microgreen seed can be grown in soil or a soilless medium such as vermiculite, peat moss, or coconut coir.

Sprouts, on the other hand, are harvested shortly after being placed in water. They require a high-moisture environment and must be kept free from contamination. Sprouts are typically grown in jars, trays, or bags filled with an appropriate germination medium such as vermiculite or perlite. The seeds are then covered with a damp cloth and placed in a warm, dark environment until they sprout.

Nutritional Benefits of Sprouts and micro greens

Both microgreens and sprouts have high nutritional content, offering a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can benefit overall health.

Microgreens offer a wide range of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, K, and E, calcium, iron, amino acids, fiber content and zinc. They are also rich in fiber and contain various antioxidants, including carotenoids and flavonoids.

Sprouts are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, supplying essential nutrients such as vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus. They are also high in fiber and offer some plant-based protein.

Temperature and Humidity Requirements of Microgreens and Sprouts

The temperature and humidity requirements of microgreens and sprouts can vary significantly depending on the type of plant. In general, sprouts are very sensitive to temperature and require higher humidity levels than microgreens.

For sprouts, optimal growing temperatures range from 65-72°F (18-22°C). Since they are relatively small plants, they can be easily impacted by temperature fluctuations. Additionally, sprouts need high humidity levels in order to thrive; ideally between 70-85%.

For microgreens, optimal growing temperatures range from 60-75°F (15-24°C). They can tolerate slightly lower humidity levels than sprouts and generally require between 40-70% humidity.

Light Requirements of micro greens and sprouts

The light requirements of micro greens and sprouts differ significantly due to the different stages of growth for each. Microgreens are harvested after they have grown into small plants with several sets of true leaves, while sprouts are harvested at a very early stage in development when they are still just germinated seeds. As a result, microgreens require more intense light than sprouts to stay healthy and develop.

Microgreens need a full spectrum of light, preferably natural sunlight, for at least 6-8 hours per day in order to thrive. Indoor growing environments should use high-intensity grow lights to provide the necessary light requirements.

Sprouts do not require as much intense light as microgreens do. They can typically get by with indirect or fluorescent lighting for 4 -6 hours per day.

Growth time of Microgreens compared to Sprouts

The growth times of microgreens and sprouts are very different. Sprouts typically grow within a few days, while microgreens take significantly longer to mature. On average, it takes about two weeks for microgreens to reach their full size and be ready for harvest.

Sprouts usually germinate in a matter of 1-2 days, depending on the type of seed, and can be harvested in as little as one week.

Harvesting microgreens and sprouts


Microgreens are typically ready for harvest when they have developed their first true leaves, which is usually around 1 to 3 weeks after sowing the seeds. The exact timing may vary depending on the variety and growing conditions. To harvest microgreens, use clean scissors or a sharp knife to cut the stems just above the soil level. Be careful not to damage neighboring plants. Alternatively, you can gently pull the microgreens from the soil if they come off easily. 

After harvesting, gently rinse the microgreens with cool water to remove any debris or soil. Shake off excess water and allow them to air dry or pat them dry with a clean towel. Store them in a container lined with a paper towel or in a breathable plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use them within a few days for the best flavor and freshness.


Sprouts are usually ready for harvest within a few days after germination when the roots and shoots have developed. The length of time may vary depending on the variety and desired sprout size. Take off the entire sprout and rinse well. After rinsing, allow the sprouts to drain well. Ensure that excess water is drained to prevent mold or bacterial growth. Once the sprouts are drained, transfer them to a clean container or plastic bag. Keep them in the refrigerator and use them within a few days. It's best to consume raw sprouts.

Best microgreens and sprouts to grow at home


  1. Sunflower: Sunflower microgreens have a nutty flavor and are rich in nutrients like vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium.
  2. Radish: Radish microgreens add a spicy kick to dishes and are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C.
  3. Pea shoots: Pea shoots have a fresh, sweet taste and are a good source of vitamins A, C, and folic acid.
  4. Broccoli: Broccoli microgreens have a mild, slightly bitter taste and are known for their high content of vitamins A, C, and K.
  5. Kale: Kale microgreens offer a robust flavor and are packed with nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium and iron.


    1. Alfalfa: Alfalfa sprouts are mild and have a subtle nutty flavor. They are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like calcium and magnesium.
    2. Mung beans: Mung bean sprouts are crisp and have a slightly sweet flavor. They are rich in protein, fiber, and antioxidants.
    3. Lentils: Lentil sprouts have a mild, earthy taste and are high in protein, fiber, and essential minerals like iron and folate.
    4. Broccoli: Broccoli sprouts have a milder taste compared to their microgreen counterparts and are rich in sulforaphane, a compound with potential health benefits.
    5. Wheatgrass: Wheatgrass sprouts are commonly juiced and are known for their high chlorophyll content and nutrient density.

In conclusion, microgreens and sprouts, both green plants, provide valuable energy sources and incredible health benefits. While microgreens offer a wide range of flavors, vibrant colors, and extra nutrients, sprouts are known for their crunchy texture and mild to spicy flavors. Both microgreens and sprouts are considered healthy foods, packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Whether you prefer the delicate and diverse flavors of microgreens or the crispness and subtle spice of sprouts, incorporating these nutrient-rich greens into your diet can enhance your overall well-being and add a healthy and flavorful twist to your meals.


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Extra reading

Complete guide to microgreens

How to grow microgreens at home| Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Microgreens at Home

Microgreens: What Are They and How to Grow Them at Home

Microgreen Seeds - Top Tips for Choosing and Preparing Microgreen Seeds

Microgreens: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and How to Grow Them at Home


Happy Gardening!

Dr. Vandana K.