Nutritional characterization and shelf-life of packaged microgreens
Besides the variety of colours and flavours, microgreens show interesting nutritional properties, mainly regarding their contents of mineral nutrients and bioactive compounds. To date, the literature has prevalently focused on the individual nutritional features of microgreens usually belonging to Brassicaceae. The present study reports an articulated nutritional profile of six genotypes of microgreens, belonging to three species and two families: chicory (Cichorium intybus L., Puglia's local variety ‘Molfetta’, CM, and cultivar ‘Italico a costa rossa’, CR) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. Group crispa, cultivar ‘Bionda da taglio’, LB, and ‘Trocadero’, LT), from Asteraceae; and broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. Group italica Plenk, Puglia's local variety ‘Mugnuli’, BM, and cultivar ‘Natalino’, BN) from Brassicaceae. All the microgreens, except LB, can be considered good sources of Ca, whilst LT and CM also showed considerable amounts of K. As regards bioactive compounds, Brassica microgreens were the richest in phenolic antioxidants. The microgreens also presented higher amounts of α-tocopherol and carotenoids compared to mature vegetables. In particular, broccoli microgreens and LB showed the highest amounts of vitamin E, while Asteraceae microgreens presented the highest levels of carotenoids. Due to their delicate tissues, fresh cut microgreens showed a shelf life not exceeding ten days at 5 °C. The results obtained highlight the possibility to exploit genetic biodiversity in order to obtain tailored microgreens with the desired nutritional profiles, with particular regard to mineral nutrients and bioactive compounds. Appropriate pre- and post-harvest strategies should be developed, so as to allow microgreens to retain as long as possible their nutritional value.