Vegetable Verbiage: The Difference Between Soil Sprouts and Microgreens

Author Peter Burke sheds some light on the terms associated with growing indoor salad greens.

  • Pictured here are microgreens grown in a 20" x 10" (50.8 x 25.4 cm) tray under lights.
    Photo by Peter Burke
  • Sprouts can grow in a quart Mason jar and need to be rinsed two to three times a day.
    Photo by Peter Burke
  • In "Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening," Peter Burke offers a method of becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient with produce.
    Photo by Peter Burke

In his revolutionary book Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening, Peter Burke proves that you can grow salad greens throughout the entire year with little more than a cupboard and a windowsill. This book is an inviting guide for both first-time and experienced gardeners in rural and urban environments. The book offers detailed step-by-step instructions to mastering Burke’s method, including tools and accessories to have on hand, soil and compost, harvest and storage, recipes and much more. This excerpt highlights the distinctions between soil sprouts and microgreens.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening.

The Difference between Soil Sprouts and Microgreens

Teaching workshops on indoor salad gardening has been a great way for me to learn from the questions folks ask during and after the sessions. I have heard a lot of confusion in terminology. This section expanded from a conversation, a series of e-mail conversations really, with my editor. I had planned to add a section on definitions of terms anyway, but our conversation highlighted the need for clarity. At one point when I said I was not going to include a chapter on microgreens, she replied, “Isn’t microgreens a huge part of the book? I’m confused . . . .” After a few more e-mails I finally got it. We were using the same word for two different things. In this case she was using the word microgreens as a general term for growing greens, and I was using it to refer to a specific way to grow greens.

The essence of the issue is that there are a number of techniques for growing immature greens. Sprouts, bean sprouts, shoots, microgreens, baby greens, and soil sprouts are all immature greens. Each one is distinct in how it is grown and at what stage of growth it is harvested. Still, the terms are often used interchangeably to label any immature green we use for salads. I will frequently hear people say things like “Oh, you’re the sprout guy!” and it would be lost on them if I corrected them by saying, “No, I am the soil sprout and shoot guy.”

Just so we are all on the same page through the rest of the book, I’m going to make an attempt to clarify terms, realizing that these are my definitions only and not an official certified definition. I have witnessed this confusion of terminology in all types of media—radio, television, magazine articles, online articles, and even dictionaries like Wikipedia—so it stands to reason there is confusion. Let’s try to clear things up.

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