by Joshua and Allison Guess, owners of Rooted Farm
Aquaponics—a system of aquaculture in which waste produced by aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water—has inspired people to start planting microgreens: a close cousin to the sprout, which are germinated seeds that are eaten root, seed and shoot. These tiny greens have become a trend among foodies and chefs, leading to urban farmers producing microgreens indoors. Microgreens have been found to be four to 40 times denser in nutrients than their mature counterparts; for example, red cabbage microgreens have 40 times the vitamin E that mature cabbage offers.
Nutrient-dense food is very important to most growers of microgreens, many of whom have a passion to see nutritious food healing the land and its people. When producers grow microgreens, they want to grow the healthiest greens possible through using the most nutritious soil available through measures such as remineralizing the soil. Healthy soil leads to healthy plants, and that ultimately leads to healthy people.
Most microgreens growers produce plants grown in a greenhouse, where they are watered from underneath and given sun from above, using nothing but soil, sun and water. Some are not certified organic because they believe that relational transparency will always trump certifications and labels; just because something is labeled organic doesn’t necessarily mean it is nutrient dense or even healthy—today, there are even “organic” snack chips. Most microgreens growers love it when customers ask the hard questions and see for themselves what is involved in producing microgreens. Most microgreens growers work directly with chefs, restaurants, farmers’ markets and co-ops.
The most popular types of greens include sunflower, pea shoots, spicy mustard, radish, red cabbage, broccoli, mizuna, arugula, amaranth, bok choy, kohlrabi and basil. There are salad mixes, such as Crazy Salad, with a pea shoot base tossed with a mix of several different types of microgreens. They can be used as a salad, but there are many different ways to incorporate them into meals—sandwiches or wraps, tuna or chicken salad, topping for a quiche or an omelet, in desserts or as smoothie ingredients. The microgreens are so flavorful and tender that they can be added to just about anything, or enjoyed alone for snacking.