Alfalfa microgreens have been growing in popularity in recent years as more people discover their nutritional benefits and just how easy they are to grow at home. Often referred to as the “father of foods”, alfalfa has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and is packed with important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about alfalfa microgreens, including:
- What are alfalfa microgreens?
- Health benefits of alfalfa microgreens
- Nutritional profile
- How to grow alfalfa microgreens step-by-step
- Common pests and diseases
- How to harvest and store alfalfa microgreens
- Recipes and serving suggestions
- And more!
Whether you’re new to gardening or an experienced grower looking to add a super nutritious green to your repertoire, read on to learn why alfalfa microgreens deserve a spot in your kitchen garden.
Key Takeaways on Alfalfa Microgreens
- Alfalfa microgreens are the young sprouted seedlings of the alfalfa plant, harvested at 1-3 inches tall.
- They have a mild, sweet, pea-like flavor and tender crunchy texture.
- Alfalfa sprouts are incredibly nutritious, and packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.
- Growing research shows alfalfa microgreens have many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, reducing inflammation, and boosting immunity.
- Alfalfa microgreens are easy and quick to grow at home, taking just 7-14 days from seed to harvest.
- Soak seeds first, then rinse frequently and maintain even moisture levels for healthy growth.
- Harvest sprouts when they are 1-1.5 inches tall and microgreens at 2-3 inches using clean scissors.
- Store freshly harvested alfalfa sprouts refrigerated for 5-7 days, rinse daily. Or freeze for longer storage.
- Add alfalfa microgreens to smoothies, salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, and many other savory or sweet dishes.
- Their mild flavor and crunch make them versatile and easy to incorporate into any meal or snack.
- Grow your own alfalfa sprouts and microgreens for a nutritious superfood packed with health benefits and delicious flavor.
What Are Alfalfa Microgreens?
Alfalfa microgreens, also known as alfalfa sprouts, are the young seedlings of the alfalfa plant (Medicago sativa). Unlike full-grown alfalfa which is grown primarily as a forage crop for livestock, alfalfa microgreens are grown for human consumption.
Microgreens are harvested when the seedlings are 1-3 inches tall, usually 7-14 days after germination. At this young stage, the greens are very small in size but bursting with concentrated nutrients and flavor.
Alfalfa sprouts have a delicate, crisp texture and a fresh, mild, sweet flavor similar to pea shoots. Their tender green leaves make a nutritious addition to salads, sandwiches, soups and more.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa Microgreens
Alfalfa sprouts have been revered for their healing properties for centuries, and used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Modern research has confirmed many of the traditional health claims about alfalfa.
Here are some of the top scientifically proven benefits of adding alfalfa microgreens to your diet:
- Rich in antioxidants: Alfalfa contains high levels of carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, and other antioxidants that help fight free radical damage and oxidative stress.
- Anti-inflammatory: Compounds in alfalfa have been found to reduce inflammation, which is the root cause of many chronic diseases.
- Lowers cholesterol: Alfalfa has been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while maintaining HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Detoxification: Alfalfa acts as a natural diuretic, liver tonic, and kidney cleanser, removing toxins from the body.
- Reduces blood sugar: The saponins in alfalfa help modulate blood glucose response and insulin sensitivity.
- Prevents vitamin deficiencies: Alfalfa is loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, and K which prevents nutritional deficiencies.
- Builds strong bones: The calcium, magnesium, zinc, boron, and vitamin K in alfalfa improve bone mineral density and reduce osteoporosis risk.
- Boosts immunity: Rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc, and selenium, alfalfa strengthens the immune system.
With this impressive resume of benefits, it’s easy to see why alfalfa sprouts are considered a superfood worthy of being called the “father of all foods”.
Nutritional Profile of Alfalfa Microgreens
Alfalfa microgreens punch way above their weight when it comes to nutritional value, packing a huge amount of nutrients into their tiny leaves.
Here is an overview of the impressive nutrient profile of 1 cup (33 grams) of alfalfa microgreens:
- Vitamin K: 30 μg (25% DV)
- Vitamin C: 8.2 mg (9% DV)
- Folate: 36 μg (9% DV)
- Vitamin A: 308 IU (6% DV)
- Calcium: 32 mg (3% DV)
- Iron: 0.7 mg (4% DV)
- Magnesium: 11 mg (3% DV)
- Potassium: 79 mg (2% DV)
- Protein: 2 grams
Alfalfa sprouts also contain decent amounts of B vitamins, zinc, phosphorous, beta-carotene, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.
And with just 8 calories and 0.7 grams of carbs per cup, they make a nutritious low-calorie addition to any meal.
Table 1 – Complete Nutrient Profile of Alfalfa Microgreens
|Vitamin K||30 μg||25%||Bone health, blood clotting|
|Vitamin C||8.2 mg||9%||Immunity, collagen production|
|Folate||36 μg||9%||Cell growth & division|
|Vitamin A||308 IU||6%||Vision, immune function|
|Calcium||32 mg||3%||Bone strength, nerve signaling|
|Iron||0.7 mg||4%||Oxygen circulation, energy|
|Magnesium||11 mg||3%||Nerve & muscle function|
|Potassium||79 mg||2%||Heart function, fluid balance|
|Protein||2g||–||Building block for tissues|
|Dietary Fiber||1g||4%||Digestion regulation|
*Percent Daily Value based on 2000 calorie diet
Blackout Period for Alfalfa Microgreens
Once alfalfa seeds have been soaked, it is important to provide a blackout period for 1-2 days before exposing them to light. This blackout period encourages the seed to focus its energy on growing the root system first before sprouting the leaves.
To create a blackout environment:
- Place the soaked seeds in a sprouting jar, tray, or other opaque container. This blocks external light.
- Cover the container with a lid, towel, or blackout dome. Make sure no light can penetrate inside.
- Keep the seeds at room temperature around 70°F.
- Continue rinsing and draining the seeds every 12 hours during the blackout period.
After 1-2 days in complete darkness, you can transfer the seeds to a growing tray or remove the light-blocking cover.
Once exposed to light, photosynthesis will begin and the alfalfa sprouts will start rapidly growing leaves. Keep rinsing twice a day and harvest when the microgreens reach your desired height.
The initial blackout period allows the alfalfa seeds to prioritize root growth first. This establishes a strong foundation to support leaf growth later on when exposed to light. Stronger roots result in healthier, more vigorous alfalfa microgreens.
How to Grow Alfalfa Microgreens Step-by-Step
One of the best things about alfalfa microgreens is how easy they are to grow right at home. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to growing alfalfa sprouts successfully:
- Alfalfa seeds
- Containers – sprouting jars/trays or 10×20 inch trays
- Growing medium – soil, coco coir, etc. Optional for sprouting but needed for microgreens
- Water spray bottle
- Scissors for harvesting
Step 1: Soak Seeds
- Place 1-2 tbsp of alfalfa seeds in a jar or bowl and cover with 2-3 inches of water.
- Let soak for 6-12 hours. This kickstarts the germination process.
- Drain the water and rinse the seeds thoroughly afterward.
Step 2: Sprout Seeds
- Transfer the soaked seeds to a sprouting jar/tray. No growing medium is needed at this stage.
- Rinse the seeds with cool water 2-3 times per day, draining well after each rinse.
- Keep the jar out of direct sunlight at room temperature.
- Continue rinsing and draining for 3-5 days until sprouts are 1-1.5 inches long.
Step 3 (Optional): Plant Seeds for Microgreens
- Spread pre-sprouted seeds evenly in a 10×20” tray filled with soil, coco coir, or other growing medium.
- Water gently to moisten. Maintain even moisture, watering when the top inch feels dry.
- Give them light, but not direct hot sun.
- Grow for 7-10 days until leaves are 1-3 inches tall.
Step 4: Harvest
- Use clean scissors to cut the microgreens off at the soil level.
- Rinse and gently dry with a salad spinner or towels before storing.
- Enjoy immediately, refrigerate in a container for up to 5-7 days.
Growing alfalfa sprouts and microgreens is an easy, fast way to add fresh nutrition to your meals year-round. The initial soaking and frequent rinsing are important to prevent mold growth. But otherwise, alfalfa basically grows itself!
Common Pests and Diseases
Alfalfa sprouts have relatively few pest and disease problems, especially when proper growing conditions are maintained. Here are some potential issues to look out for:
- Damping off: Fungal disease causing seeds to rot and seedlings to collapse. Prevent by sterilizing trays and not overwatering. Remove affected plants immediately.
- Mold: Grey or black fuzz growing on leaves. Caused by excess moisture. Improve air circulation and water less frequently.
- Aphids: Tiny pear-shaped insects that feed on leaves. Check the underside of the leaves and spray off with water. Or use insecticidal soap.
- Root rot: Roots turn brown or black. Let the soil dry out between waterings and remove affected plants.
- Downy mildew: Yellow spots on upper leaf surfaces. Reduce humidity and moisture levels.
Maintaining clean tools, sterilized containers, and optimal growing conditions can help avoid most of these issues. Be sure to inspect plants daily and promptly remove any damaged or diseased sprouts to prevent spreading.
Table 2 – Troubleshooting Common Alfalfa Microgreen Problems
|Seeds rotting||Overwatering||Sterilize tray, reduce watering frequency|
|Mold on leaves||Excess moisture||Improve air circulation, water less|
|Yellow spots on leaves||Downy mildew||Reduce humidity & moisture|
|Leggy seedlings||Not enough light||Provide 12-14 hours of light per day|
|Root rot||Pathogens in soil||Let soil dry out between waterings|
|Aphids on underside of leaves||Pests||Rinse off with water spray, insecticidal soap|
How to Harvest and Store Alfalfa Microgreens
- Harvest alfalfa sprouts after 3-6 days once they reach 1-1.5 inches tall.
- For microgreens, harvest after 7-14 days when 2-3 inches tall.
- Use clean scissors to snip stems right above the soil line.
- Gently wash and dry the sprouts using a salad spinner or towels.
- Remove any damaged or yellow leaves.
- Store sprouts in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days.
- Rinse and drain stored sprouts daily to maximize freshness.
- Use zip-top bags for freezer storage for up to 6 months. Blanch sprouts before freezing.
Proper post-harvest handling keeps alfalfa sprouts fresh and crunchy until you’re ready to enjoy their delicious flavor and nutrition.
Table 3 – Harvest Time Based on Purpose
|Purpose||Height||Days to Harvest|
|Sprouts||1-1.5 inches||3-6 days|
|Microgreens||2-3 inches||7-14 days|
|Baby greens||3+ inches||14-21 days|
Alfalfa Microgreens Vs. Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa microgreens and alfalfa sprouts come from the same plant, but there are some key differences between the two:
- Sprouts are germinated for 3-6 days and harvested when the seedling is 1-1.5 inches tall.
- Microgreens are grown for 7-14 days and harvested at 2-3 inches tall when the first true leaves emerge.
- Sprouts are often grown without soil, just rinsing frequently.
- Microgreens are grown in shallow trays of soil or growing medium.
- Sprouts require no light, grown in dark environments.
- Microgreens need light to photosynthesize and produce green leaves.
Flavor and Texture
- Sprouts have a crunchy texture and mild flavor.
- Microgreens have a slightly more developed flavor with grassy, pea-shoot notes and tender crunch.
- Both are highly nutritious, but microgreens contain a bit more minerals and antioxidants as the leaves grow.
- Sprouts are used raw in salads, sandwiches, and smoothies.
- Microgreens can be used raw or gently cooked into soups, omelets, etc.
Sprouts are the earliest harvested stage while microgreens are more mature seedlings with additional nutritive benefits from their small green leaves. Both pack a nutritious punch and can easily be grown fresh at home.
Recipes and Serving Suggestions
The mild sweet pea-like taste of alfalfa microgreens complements both savory and sweet dishes. They work well in everything from smoothies to stir-fries. Here are some delicious ways to eat alfalfa sprouts:
- Add microgreens to sandwiches, burgers, or wraps for crunch.
- Toss them into green salads, grain bowls, and Buddha bowls.
- Use as a tasty low-calorie swap for lettuce on tacos.
- Mix into egg dishes like omelets, frittatas, or scrambled eggs.
- Blend into fruit or vegetable smoothies.
- Garnish soups, pasta, pizza and more.
- Top hummus, dips, or savory snacks.
- Stir into quinoa, rice, or grain dishes before serving.
The options for enjoying alfalfa microgreens are endless! Let your creativity run wild.
Here are a couple of recipe ideas to get you started:
- Alfalfa Power Smoothie: Blend alfalfa microgreens with banana, greek yogurt, milk, peanut butter, and honey for a nutrient-packed breakfast.
- Alfalfa Pesto Pasta: Toss hot pasta with an alfalfa pesto sauce made of basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, lemon juice, and alfalfa microgreens.
- Alfalfa Summer Rolls: Fill rice paper wraps with alfalfa microgreens, carrot, cucumber, mint, and chicken. Drizzle with peanut sauce.
- Alfalfa Omelet: Make a fluffy omelet filled with sauteed mushrooms, onions, cheese, and alfalfa microgreens.
Final Thoughts: Embrace Nutritious Alfalfa Microgreens
Alfalfa’s impressive résumé of health benefits makes it easy to see why it has earned the venerable title of “father of all foods”. This ancient green is truly a nutritional powerhouse.
Yet many people miss out on these benefits simply because full-grown alfalfa is not readily available at the grocery store. That’s where alfalfa microgreens come in – all the superb nutrition of alfalfa made easy and convenient to grow fresh at home.
In just a week or two, you can fill your kitchen with trays of tasty, tender alfalfa microgreens. They require minimal care but deliver maximum flavor and nutrients.
Add these supercharged sprouts to smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and more for a health boost in every bite. Let the mild sweetness and satisfying crunch transform your meals while packing in vitamins, antioxidants, and plant compounds galore.
When it comes to improving health in a deliciously easy way, nothing beats fresh homegrown microgreens. Reap the benefits for yourself by growing alfalfa microgreens – a true superfood worthy of its legendary status.