Special Issue "Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Horticultural and Floricultural Crops".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (16 April 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Youssef Rouphael
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, 80055 Portici, Italy
Interests: greenhouse crops; vegetables production; hydroponics and aquaponics; plant nutrition; microgreens; sprouts; edible flowers; functional foods, grafting; microbial and non-microbial biostimulants; biofortification; vegetable quality related to preharvest factors; LED; urban agriculture; organic farming
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Colla
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences, University of Tuscia, 01100 Viterbo, Italy
Interests: microgreens, sprouts; functional food; crop production; plant nutrition; fertilizers; organic farming; organic agriculture; nutrient management; biofertilizers; vegetable production; fruit quality; fertigation; hydroponics; vegetable crops; biofortification
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Stefania De Pascale
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, 80055 Portici, Italy
Interests: physiology; hydroponics; plant nutrition; space farming; vertical farming; edible flowers; microgreens; specialty crops; sprouts; functional quality; postharvest; biofortification
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

Attention in functional and nutraceutical novel foods has been on the rise, compelled by the increased interest of scientists, food nutritionists, growers, and especially consumers for diets that support longevity and health combined with gastronomic delight. Sprouts and especially microgreens are two classes of specialty, novel crops produced from the seeds of vegetables, cereals, herbs, and wild species. Both sprouts and microgreens can be consumed raw, and they are characterized by their fortified phytonutrient content, particularly amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, glucosinolates, macro- and micro-minerals, as well as vitamins. The nutritional and functional quality, the shelf-life, as well as the microbial safety of these two specialty crops are modulated in several ways preharvest (species, plant nutrition, biofortification, substrate, temperature, light quality, and quantity) and postharvest (light exposure, storage temperature, atmospheric composition, and packaging technology). This Special Issue invites original research papers, opinions, and perspectives (but not review articles) dissecting the main preharvest and postharvest factors implicated in the modulation of nutritional and functional quality of sprouts and microgreens. The analytical aspects of submitted works must be of high standard (e.g., HPLC/GC/mass spectrometry orbitrap), while works covering mainly physical and spectrophotometric assessments will not be considered.

Prof. Youssef Rouphael
Prof. Giuseppe Colla
Prof. Stefania De Pascale
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agronomy is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • HPLC-DAD
  • orbitrap
  • microgreens
  • sprouts
  • functional foods
  • light
  • biofortification
  • shelf-life
  • packaging
  • antioxidant activity
  • phenolic compounds
  • genotypic variation

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Article
Selenium Biofortification of Three Wild Species, Rumex acetosa L., Plantago coronopus L., and Portulaca oleracea L., Grown as Microgreens
Agronomy 2021, 11(6), 1155; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11061155 - 04 Jun 2021
Viewed by 555
Abstract
Microgreens of wild herbs are a source of healthy compounds. Selenium (Se) biofortification of microgreens could help increase the Se content and thus contribute to Se requirements in humans. We evaluated whether three wild herbs, Rumex acetosa L., Plantago coronopus L., and Portulaca [...] Read more.
Microgreens of wild herbs are a source of healthy compounds. Selenium (Se) biofortification of microgreens could help increase the Se content and thus contribute to Se requirements in humans. We evaluated whether three wild herbs, Rumex acetosa L., Plantago coronopus L., and Portulaca oleracea L., were suitable for biofortification in order to obtain products with high nutraceutical value. In the first experiment, the three species were enriched with Na2SeO4 at 0 and 1.5 mg Se L−1, and the effects of Se on the nutraceutical characteristics of microgreens were evaluated. In the second experiment, using P. oleracea enriched with 0, 1.5, 5, and 10 mg Se L−1, we investigated whether there was a relation between the increasing Se concentrations in the nutrient solution and the Se content in microgreens. The Se added was taken up by roots and accumulated in the aerial part. P. coronopus exhibited the highest ability to accumulate selenium, and the Se-enriched microgreens showed the highest chlorophyll and flavonoid content. The strong correlation between the Se concentration in the growth solution and the Se accumulated in P. oleracea may enable the cultivation of microgreens with the targeted Se content. The resulting Se-biofortified microgreens of wild species could represent a new vegetable product with high nutraceutical value also ensuring a sufficient dietary intake of Se. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Nutritional and Sensory Quality of Two Types of Cress Microgreens Depending on the Mineral Nutrition
Agronomy 2021, 11(6), 1110; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11061110 - 29 May 2021
Viewed by 522
Abstract
The present study addressed the combination of nutritional and sensory quality assessment of radish and garden cress as microgreens cultivated in different amounts of mineral nutrients under conditions that can be realized in a private household. The content of value adding compounds was [...] Read more.
The present study addressed the combination of nutritional and sensory quality assessment of radish and garden cress as microgreens cultivated in different amounts of mineral nutrients under conditions that can be realized in a private household. The content of value adding compounds was determined by means of chemical analyses. Total flavor impression and visual appearance were rated by untrained consumer tests. In cotyledons of radish cress (Raphanus sativus L.), carotenoid, total phenols, nitrate contents, and antioxidant capacity decreased significantly with decreasing mineral content in the nutrient solution, whereas, in stems, total phenols and anthocyanin contents rose and nitrate content decreased significantly with decreasing mineral content. In garden cress (Lepidium sativum L.), carotenoid and nitrate contents decreased and anthocyanin content increased significantly with decreasing mineral content, indicating that the response of value adding compounds to changing amounts of minerals in the nutrient solution depends on the compound of interest, plant species, and even the plant organ of a species. The sensory quality of the studied microgreens was generally rated highest when mineral content in the nutrient solution was highest, indicating that sensory quality is not necessarily identical with nutritional quality. Considering the common practice in private households, cultivation with tap water represents an attractive compromise for nutritional and sensory quality in case of garden cress, whereas, for radish cress, the application of 25% modified Hoagland solution is recommended. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Mineral and Antioxidant Attributes of Petroselinum crispum at Different Stages of Ontogeny: Microgreens vs. Baby Greens
Agronomy 2021, 11(5), 857; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11050857 - 28 Apr 2021
Viewed by 350
Abstract
Parsley is an aromatic herb native to the Mediterranean region and treasured for its phytochemical profile and bioactive properties. Developmental stage at harvest is a factor that modulates the nutritional quality of vegetables, including young greens. Accordingly, an experiment under strictly controlled conditions [...] Read more.
Parsley is an aromatic herb native to the Mediterranean region and treasured for its phytochemical profile and bioactive properties. Developmental stage at harvest is a factor that modulates the nutritional quality of vegetables, including young greens. Accordingly, an experiment under strictly controlled conditions was carried out to compare the mineral macronutrient and phytochemical composition as well as the antioxidant activity of plain-leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum cv. Comune 2) at two different harvest maturity stages, microgreens and baby greens. Macronutrients, carotenoids (lutein and β-carotene) and polyphenols were quantified through ion chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography with a diode-array detector (HPLC-DAD) and UHPLC-Q-Orbitrap high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS), respectively. Microgreens accumulated more potassium and phosphorus, whereas baby greens accumulated more calcium and magnesium, and 65.5% less nitrate. In addition, microgreens provided 1.8-fold more lutein and 2.8-fold more β-carotene, whereas baby greens provided 183.6% more total ascorbic acid, 64.2% more total polyphenols and 170.3% higher hydrophilic antioxidant activity. Based on the culinary and phytonutritive scope of the consumers, different harvest maturity stages can be opted for and production schemes designed. Future studies are warranted to appraise the importance of ontogeny as a determinant factor for the composition and bioactive value of additional micro-herb genotypes, including underutilized Mediterranean species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Nutrient Supplementation Configures the Bioactive Profile and Production Characteristics of Three Brassica L. Microgreens Species Grown in Peat-Based Media
Agronomy 2021, 11(2), 346; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11020346 - 15 Feb 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 788
Abstract
Brassica L. microgreens are a fresh microscale vegetable crop of high antioxidant value and naturally dense in nutrients without the intervention of biofortification or genetic engineering. A climate chamber experiment on peat-based substrate was set up to test microgreens growth and accumulation of [...] Read more.
Brassica L. microgreens are a fresh microscale vegetable crop of high antioxidant value and naturally dense in nutrients without the intervention of biofortification or genetic engineering. A climate chamber experiment on peat-based substrate was set up to test microgreens growth and accumulation of secondary metabolites in response to nutrient supplementation. Microgreens mineral content was analyzed through ion chromatography and total ascorbic acid through UV-Vis spectrophotometry, while carotenoids and phenolic acids were quantified by HPLC-DAD and UHPLC-HRMS, respectively. Brussels sprouts and cabbage yield was only reduced by 10%, while nitrate was reduced by 99% in the absence of nutrient supplementation. Rocket yield was prominently reduced by 47%, with a corresponding nitrate reduction of 118%. Brussels sprouts secondary metabolites were not improved by the absence of nutrient supplementation, whereas cabbage microgreens demonstrated a 30% increase in total ascorbic acid and a 12% increase in total anthocyanins. As for rocket, the absence of nutrient supplementation elicited an extensive increase in secondary metabolites, such as lutein (110%), β-carotene (30%), total ascorbic acid (58%) and total anthocyanins (20%), but caused a decrease in total phenolic acids. It is hereby demonstrated that growing microgreens on a commercial peat-based substrate without nutrient supplementation can be feasible for certain species. Moreover, it might elicit a species-dependent spike in bioactive secondary metabolites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Amelioration Effect of LED Lighting in the Bioactive Compounds Synthesis during Carrot Sprouting
Agronomy 2021, 11(2), 304; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11020304 - 09 Feb 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 728
Abstract
Background: This work investigates the morphological and compositional changes of carrots sprouts during 17 days at 20 °C. Methods: Growing conditions were 7 days in darkness (dD) followed by 3, 7, or 10 days of a 16 h light/8 h darkness photoperiod (dP). [...] Read more.
Background: This work investigates the morphological and compositional changes of carrots sprouts during 17 days at 20 °C. Methods: Growing conditions were 7 days in darkness (dD) followed by 3, 7, or 10 days of a 16 h light/8 h darkness photoperiod (dP). Light stimuli used were fluorescent light (Fl), Blue+Red (B+R), Blue+Red+Far-Red (B+R+FR) Light-Emitting Diodes—LEDs- and darkness as control. Results: Results showed that lighting conditions improved the total antioxidant activity and increased the bioactive compounds compared to darkness treatment. However, hypocotyl and sprout length were increased under darkness conditions. Both LEDs treatments (B+R and B+R+FR) increased the phenolic content (phenolic acids and rutin) by 45% and 65% compared to darkness and by 32% regarding Fl. Moreover, a similar trend was observed in the carotenoids content under B+R LEDs, but not when FR was added. Conclusions: Our results suggest that LED lighting during carrot sprouting improved the synthesis of health-promoting compounds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Growth and Ginsenosides Content of Ginseng Sprouts According to LED-Based Light Quality Changes
Agronomy 2020, 10(12), 1979; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10121979 - 16 Dec 2020
Viewed by 738
Abstract
This study investigated growth and ginsenosides content of ginseng sprouts under various light spectra. One-year-old ginseng seedlings were cultivated under various light treatments including: monochromatic (red (R), green (G), and blue (B)), various RB and RGB combinations, white (fluorescent lamps (FL) and natural [...] Read more.
This study investigated growth and ginsenosides content of ginseng sprouts under various light spectra. One-year-old ginseng seedlings were cultivated under various light treatments including: monochromatic (red (R), green (G), and blue (B)), various RB and RGB combinations, white (fluorescent lamps (FL) and natural white (NW)), and supplemental far red (FR). R and high R ratio increased growth characteristics of ginseng sprouts (excepted for root dry weight). The replacement of G for B in RGB group and W group did not increase the growth, and supplemental FR increased shoot and root fresh weights, total fresh weight, and leaf area. R had 1.5 times higher photosynthetic rate compared to B and G, and R8G1B1 and R9G1B0 showed the highest values in RGB group; whereas the RB, W, and FR groups did not enhance photosynthetic rate. B and high B ratio increased shoot saponin and ginsenosides, total saponin and ginsenosides contents. Total saponin content in shoot was 4.4 times higher than that in root. The supplemental FR enhanced both total saponin and ginsenosides contents. In conclusion, NW + FR showed the highest total fresh weight, saponin and ginsenosides contents among all treatments, suggesting that supplementation of FR has a positive effect on ginseng sprouts grown in plant factories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Sensory Attributes and Consumer Acceptability of 12 Microgreens Species
Agronomy 2020, 10(7), 1043; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10071043 - 19 Jul 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1386
Abstract
Microgreens are gaining increasing recognition among consumers, acclaimed for their freshness and health promoting properties associated with densely fortified secondary metabolites. These immature greens enhance human diet and enrich it with sharp colors and flavors. While numerous species are being tested for agronomic [...] Read more.
Microgreens are gaining increasing recognition among consumers, acclaimed for their freshness and health promoting properties associated with densely fortified secondary metabolites. These immature greens enhance human diet and enrich it with sharp colors and flavors. While numerous species are being tested for agronomic and nutritional suitability, consumer acceptance of appearance, texture, and flavor is critical for the microgreens’ marketplace success. This study investigates whether sensory attributes and visual appearance affect consumer preference for microgreens and their willingness to consume them. By means of a consumer test, the sensory attributes of 12 microgreens species were evaluated, wherein a partial least squares structural equation model was developed to link sensorial attributes to willingness to eat the product. The results showed that although visual appearance of the microgreens was largely appreciated, consumer acceptance overall was mainly determined by flavor and texture. In particular, the lower the astringency, sourness, and bitterness, the higher the consumer acceptability of microgreens. Among the 12 examined species, mibuna and cress scored the lowest acceptance by consumers, while Swiss chard and coriander were the most appreciated, being therefore good candidates to be introduced in Western country markets. In addition, both Swiss chard and coriander have been identified by previous literature as good dietary source of phenolic antioxidants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Morphometric Characteristics, Polyphenols and Ascorbic Acid Variation in Brassica oleracea L. Novel Foods: Sprouts, Microgreens and Baby Leaves
Agronomy 2020, 10(6), 782; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10060782 - 31 May 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1135
Abstract
In the present study, we investigated the content and profile of polyphenols (PPH), ascorbic acid (AA), the Folin–Ciocalteu index (FCI), and antioxidant activity (1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and peroxyl radical (ROO)) variation during three different plant growth stages (sprouts, microgreens and baby leaves) of two [...] Read more.
In the present study, we investigated the content and profile of polyphenols (PPH), ascorbic acid (AA), the Folin–Ciocalteu index (FCI), and antioxidant activity (1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and peroxyl radical (ROO)) variation during three different plant growth stages (sprouts, microgreens and baby leaves) of two broccoli types, the traditional Sicilian sprouting broccoli landrace (‘Broccolo Nero’) and the broccoli standard (‘Cavolo broccolo Ramoso Calabrese’), and the standard commercial cultivar of kale (‘Cavolo Lacinato Nero di Toscana’). All biomasses collected were freeze-dried for PPH, AA, FCI, DPPH and ROO analysis. The highest polyphenol content was observed for ‘Broccolo Nero’ (BN) and ‘Cavolo Broccolo Ramoso Calabrese’ (CR), and generally sprouts showed significantly higher values compared to the microgreens and the baby leaves. The AA, FCI, DDPH and ROO significantly vary with regards to the cultivar and the plant growth stage, showing interaction between the two experimental factors analyzed. The interaction detected showed higher values for the antioxidant traits of the proposed novel food, especially for the two broccoli cultivars in the sprout growth stage in comparison to the microgreens and baby leaves. Our results suggest that the antioxidant activity is partially dependent on kaempferol and apigenin. The PPH compounds showed the highest values of kaempferol and apigenin for ‘Broccolo nero’, whereas for the other two cultivars studied, only kaempferol was the main compound represented. The data acquired are of interest for increasing the healthy traits of the novel food proposed showing the contribution offered by the neglected LRs until now underutilized and at risk of extinction. The germplasm conserved in several world genebanks could support and diversify the organic vegetable items, providing us with added-value products for organic food supply chains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Article
Effect of Salinity Stress on Phenylpropanoid Genes Expression and Related Gene Expression in Wheat Sprout
Agronomy 2020, 10(3), 390; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10030390 - 13 Mar 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 947
Abstract
The effect of salinity (NaCl treatment) on the nutritive value of wheat sprouts was investigated by analyzing the expression of phenylpropanoid biosynthetic pathway genes and the levels of phenylpropanoid compounds. Treatment with various concentrations of NaCl (50, 100, and 200 mM) resulted in [...] Read more.
The effect of salinity (NaCl treatment) on the nutritive value of wheat sprouts was investigated by analyzing the expression of phenylpropanoid biosynthetic pathway genes and the levels of phenylpropanoid compounds. Treatment with various concentrations of NaCl (50, 100, and 200 mM) resulted in increased epicatechin levels but decreased accumulation of catechin hydrate, benzoic acid, and quercetin compounds in the sprouts compared with the control (0 mM). The trans-cinnamic acid, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, ferulic acid, epicatechin, and total phenylpropanoid level in wheat sprout was the highest at 50 mM of NaCl treatment. Six-day-old wheat plantlets exposed to 50 mM NaCl for 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 h, showed that the total phenylpropanoids accumulation was the highest at 48 h after the treatment and most of the treatments showed higher phenylpropanoid content than the control at the same time points. Although the shoot and root length and the fresh weight of wheat sprouts decreased with NaCl treatment, these results suggest that treatment of 50 mM NaCl improves the nutritional quality of wheat sprouts, due to increased phenylpropanoid concentrations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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Review

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Review
Sprouts and Microgreens: Trends, Opportunities, and Horizons for Novel Research
Agronomy 2020, 10(9), 1424; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10091424 - 19 Sep 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 1920
Abstract
Sprouts and microgreens have attracted tremendous interest across multiple disciplines in recent years. Here, we critically review the most recent advances to underscore research prospects and niches, and related challenges, not yet addressed or fully pursued. In particular, we report a number of [...] Read more.
Sprouts and microgreens have attracted tremendous interest across multiple disciplines in recent years. Here, we critically review the most recent advances to underscore research prospects and niches, and related challenges, not yet addressed or fully pursued. In particular, we report a number of themes that merit special attention as a result of their relevance to plant science, nutrition, health, and zootechnics: (1) species not yet or inadequately investigated, such as wild plants, and fruit tree strains; (2) abiotic and biotic factors, and biostimulants, for elicitation strategies and metabolic engineering; (3) sanitization and processing technologies to obtain high-quality products; (4) digestive fate and impact of bioactive elements, antinutrients, and allergens on human nutrition; (5) experimental challenges to researching health benefits; (6) the opportunity to generate natural product libraries for drug discovery; and (7) sprouts in animal feeding to improve both animal health and the nutritional value of animal products for the human diet. The convergence of different themes involving interdisciplinary competencies advocate fascinating research pursuits, for example, the elicitation of metabolic variants to generate natural product collections for identification and selection of bioactive chemicals with a role as nutraceuticals, key constituents of functional foods, or interactive partners of specific drugs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sprouts, Microgreens and Edible Flowers as Novel Functional Foods)
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