Posts Tagged ‘microgreens’

 I’ve run out of things to bring to the winter farm market in Fredonia.  Well, I should say I’ve run out of things I’m willing to sell at the market.  I still have my personal stash of squash, potatoes, onions, garlic, frozen vegetables, and canned peaches…

The market is still going strong.  Margaret (Roo Haven Farm) has her eggs and chicken, Mindy (Lamberton Hollow Farm) has home-made bread, Tim (Stand Fast Farm) brings his grass-fed beef, Jasmine (SomedayMaybe Farm) has honey and syrup, and value added things like salsa and salad dressings…Bob (Busti Cider Mill) has some produce still, and Carl (Small Meadow Farm) brings his goat meat and cheeses.  So, what can I do???  I don’t have a high tunnel yet to grow winter greens, and I don’t have enough storage crops to supply a market. 

Ah, I have my little hothouse in the garage.  I’m going to try growing microgreens.  Microgreens are the tiny seedlings of the veggies we normally eat–beets, peas, corn, spinach, pac choi, amaranth, chard, cilantro… 

Here’s a little biological background. When a seed first sprouts, you’ll see the stem and the root.  Many people (and my chickens) eat the sprouted seeds just like that, seed and all.  Have you ever had alfalfa sprouts on a sandwich?  Those are just-germinated seeds.  Little stems and roots with the seed still attached.  Sprouts are not grown in soil.  They are soaked in water, drained, rinsed, drained and rinsed until they germinate.  Then they are eaten.  I do grow sprouts, but I can’t sell them without going through a lot of the FDA’s red tape. 

The next stage of growth for a sprout is what we call “microgreens.”  Remember, these seeds are planted in a soil mix.  The little seed germinates, becomes a sprout, and then grows two “leaves.”  These aren’t actually leaves–they are cotyledons.  Cotyledons in the dicot group (plants with two cotyledons) are photosynthetic and basically function just like leaves.  The difference between leaves and cotyledons is a “developmental” difference.  Cotyledons are formed within the seed with the stem and root before the seed germinates.  Leaves develop after the seed germinates.  (thanks, wikipedia and my past bio teachers!). 

Still following?  This unfolded seed–root, stem, and cotyledons–is the stage of plant growth that we call “microgreen.”  If the plant were allowed to grow further, the first true leaves would develop.  Then more leaves, and more leaves.  At that point, the plants would be considered “baby greens.”  These small leaves are what you find in many salad mixes.  True leaves look very different than cotyldedons.  In fact, cotyledons often look the same between similar species in a family, but the true leaves can be very different from each other.  Different enough that you would then be able to distinguish cabbage from kale from arugula.  Okay, end of biology lesson. 

Back to the microgreens.  Microgreens are cut above the seed/soil a few weeks after the seed has germinated.  Even with just the cotyledons, flavor is intense, colors are bright, and perhaps most importantly, an amazing amount of nutrients are present.  They contain all the vitamins and minerals that were packed into the seed to enable it to germinate.  Once the root “grounds” the seed, and leaves start to develop, a plant’s nutrients are taken from the soil, sunshine, and air.  Microgreens, though, not yet fully rooted or leafed-out, are powered by the nutrient store-house within the seed.

The trick with microgreens is the timing.  All species of seeds germinate at different speeds.  This is the point of my experiment–to see how long each seed type takes to germinate and grow to the microgreen stage.  I’ll let some develop their first true leaves, as several species are eaten this way.  When I’ve figured out the timing, I can stage the plantings to mature at the same time.  Then, I can harvest the greens to create mixes of color, texture, and flavor.  I kind of feel like an artist!  I hope the folks at the market will appreciate the microgreens…though it’s going to take me a while to figure out the system.  Stay tuned to see how this goes!  (BTW, the photo above is of the second batch I started.)

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