Have you been to a fine dining restaurant in, oh, say, the last twenty years? If so, you may have wondered about the mysterious ant-sized leaves carefully placed on top of your dish—probably using tweezers and perhaps some under-the-breath cursing. Where did they come from? What are they? Are they grown using smaller seeds? Are they grown in tiny pots? Are they harvested by children? If I’m paying $38 for a main course, why is everything on the plate so small? Unless you haven’t read the title of this blog post, you won’t be surprised to learn that these leaves are called microgreens. Whoever christened them had a wild and fanciful imagination. No one’s completely sure when and where microgreens first started turning up on plates - it was most likely in San Francisco in the 1980s. The area had the perfect ‘terroir’ for the growth of microgreens—the soil, the California climate, and not to mention, the constant flow of fresh, green, Silicon Valley dollars to support fine and experimental dining.
What Exactly Are Microgreens?
There is currently no strict USDA definition of a microgreen - versus a cress, a sprout or a baby leaf—green varietals which many would argue predate microgreens. We're going to get into the nitty gritty and define and distinguish every aforementioned growth stage first thing tomorrow (day two!).
Getting Your Hands On Microgreens
You can often find microgreens at your local farmers’ market. For example, there are usually at least two high-quality vendors selling a few varieties of live and cut microgreens at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. Larger restaurant suppliers often carry them as well, though these sources can be hard to access for a home chef – at Farm.One, we make it easy to order even the smallest quantities of a given plant. If for whatever reason you only want one flower – we can do it. It doesn't make sense to ship microgreens from halfway around the world - their leaves are small and delicate, and prefer as little handling as possible. This is why it's ideal to buy your microgreens locally, or plant and grow your own! Day three is going to be all about growing your own micros.
Variety & Diversity of Micros & Uses
There are so many different kinds of microgreens available! Basically, most of the vegetables and greens you love have their microgreen versions, and technically, almost any herb or green can be grown as a microgreen! On day four of our week of microgreens we’re going to outline some of our favorite micros and their flavor profiles, as well as their different uses.
Last but not least - tune in on day five to hear our five cents on microgreens and nutrition! Are microgreens superfoods? Are they really that good for you, and why? Should you incorporate them into your New Year’s resolution diet? (Definitely).
But seriously, microgreens are very cool—the nuttiness of arugula packed into a tiny, pretty leaf; the bold pink color of an amaranth petal; a note of basil with just the right intensity to balance a bite of tomato. No chewiness, all flavor. You can see why they’re so popular among chefs, and this is why we're going to be talking about them all week!
Five days, five different in-depth angles every day to hopefully satisfy all your microgreen itches. And if not, you can always come in for one of our classes or tours. Our tours will give you the chance to taste almost everything inside the farm and ask our farm manager detailed questions, and our classes range from three hour intros to two day intensives.
*Header image by Sarah Blesener @sarahblesener (Thanks, Sarah!)
Thank you to Dan Bernstein for co-authorship of the articles in this series!