Updated: May 17, 2020
How microgreens are handle during harvesting will play a important role in how fast it starts losing nutritional value. No matter what the variety, as soon as a microgreen is harvested it starts to degrade. The more the cellular structure of the plant is damaged during this process, the faster the loss of nutrients. To keep it's nutritional integrity, one should put as little stress on the plant during harvesting process.
Microgreens should be harvested in the coolest part of the day and quickly put into refrigeration. You can see why scale is so important here. The bigger the farm, the less attention is paid to each variety and the ideal harvesting conditions it requires. Quality of produce is often replace by the vast quantities needed to be harvested. The small farmer is able to skillfully harvest each microgreens tray, keeping as much of its nutrition intact as possible.
After microgreens have been harvested, they go through the packing and transportation stage. During this process, the temperature at which the produce is being held determines the speed in which it loses its nutrients. Evidence of this is shown by Penn State researchers Luke Laborde and Srilatha Pandrangi. Their testing was on the speed of nutrient loss in spinach after harvest. It showed that the warmer spinach is held, the quicker it loses its nutritional value. Their research showed that even when held at a steady 39 degrees F (refrigeration temperatures), most of its nutrients were lost after eight days.
Based on this research, much of the microgreens available to us has already lost the majority of its nutritional value. This especially true when we are looking at perishable greens. Even on the west coast, where much of the country's produce is grown, the majority of the microgreens sold in stores are already several days old. When you look at the extra time it takes to ship all over the country, you can start seeing why local food is so important. The average time that it takes our produce to get from the fields into our homes has increased in the last century as our farms have become fewer and farther away. Not only does this affect the nutritional content of the produce available to us but it also has a substantial environment impact with the fossil fuel consumption it requires.
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