They may be small, but they’re packed full of flavour and nutrition.
How did your business in microgreens begin?
The idea to start a microgreens business spawned from a suggestion from my good friend Zoe Laing, who is the co-creator of the delicious fermented foods at Warinyan Farm/Bottled Culture. I have been aiming towards a transition from a backyard gardener to growing produce for the local community for a few years now, and microgreens offered a niche opportunity in the local farmers’ market scene that I was able to fill. It’s a great starting point for us, as we build up our garden beds and soil for growing a larger, more varied organic market garden.
What exactly is a microgreen?
Microgreens are essentially vegetable/herb shoots that are harvested just after the cotyledons (seed leaves) appear. Some microgreens go from seed to harvest as fast as seven days, and others can take up to three weeks from seed to harvest. They are extremely rich in nutrients and minerals and are a great additive to a healthy diet. They are also extremely popular with chefs for their varied, bold flavours and colours and are often used to garnish dishes in cafés and restaurants.
What are the best plants to grow as microgreens; is there a particular variety?
The best plants to grow are very dependent on the reason you want them for. The cost of seeds can be a contributing factor, and some varieties are just not economically viable to produce for a business, as no-one would be willing to pay such a premium price for such a micro amount of greens – sorry about the pun. For me, it is the nutritional value that guides my choices of varieties to grow. It’s hard to go past varieties like broccoli, snowpea and radish, which are my three favourites at the moment.
Do microgreens have special nutritional value?
Microgreens have been a hot topic of research and discussion amongst health professionals, nutritionists and scientists in the past few years. They have exploded in popularity – and for good reason. Varieties like broccoli are weighing in at around 40 times the nutrient density than that of their mature counterpart. This means that eating a teaspoon of broccoli shoots is nearly the equivalent to eating a small head of broccoli, and I must add they taste much better too. It’s no wonder that so many mums and dads are buying them to feed their kids.
My personal favourite is Red Rambo Radish. It’s a beautiful vibrant deep red colour and has a strong mustard/radish warmth about it. It is also high in Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Beta-carotene and Vitamin E. Snowpea shoots are made up of 31% protein and contain high levels of vitamin A, B, C, E and K, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium and chlorophyll. Plus, they taste superb!
What area and or climate are best suited to growing microgreens?
Our microgreens are grown year-round under the power of the sun. We use shade cloth in summer and a hothouse/greenhouse for the winter months. I believe we are blessed with the ideal climate for year-round production of microgreens here on the Mid North Coast.
We grow our microgreens on a mix of river sand, coco peat and worm castings (from Islands in the Stream Vermiculture). We are growing chemical and spray-free produce for maximum health benefits. Commercially, microgreens are often grown hydroponically and with the use of temperature-controlled grow rooms and grow lights. I believe soil-grown greens are healthier for the planet, people and the farmer.
Microgreens have become increasingly popular in our cafés and restaurants; what type of dishes are they best suited for?
We put micro greens on top of absolutely anything in our house! They make any meal taste and look incredible. For us, they go on top of pizzas, casseroles, soups, salads, eggs, mushrooms, stir-fries, seafood, roast vegetables. One of our customers loves her sunflower shoots on yoghurt and muesli. They are very versatile and great for sneaking a little extra nutrition into just about any meal. Our two-year-old daughter eats snowpea shoots by the handful.
Are they easy to grow?
With a little help from YouTube and some perseverance, I believe anyone can grow microgreens. They are excellent for gardeners with limited space or time. We are considering running a few workshops down the track on the ins and outs of growing microgreens, but seriously, YouTube is an amazing resource for learning how to do just about anything.
We are still very much experimenting with lots of different techniques, and each variety of seed has its own characteristics, which can make getting the timing right for farmers’ markets a bit of a challenge.
Is all your produce organic and sustainable?
Our small farm is a 3.5-acre property near Diamond Beach. I have recently completed a Permaculture Design Certificate with the wonderful Limestone Permaculture in Stroud. Whilst our farm is not certified organic, everything we do here is based on permaculture principles and ethics. The main three permaculture principles are; earth care, people care and fair share.
Under this mindset, I would like to assure our customers that any produce that comes off our farm is 100 percent organic and chemical-free. It is grown with the best intentions for the ongoing health of our soils, waterways and community. We buy all our seeds through Greenpatch Organic Seeds and Plants at Glenthorne and sell direct to local cafés and restaurants who care about supporting local small businesses, low food miles and sustainable and regenerative operations.
We are trying to close the loop by cycling café/restaurant food waste back through our compost heaps, and as it (compost) and our farm matures, we will be growing lots more varieties of fruits and vegetables for the local community.
We feel so blessed to live in an area that is fast becoming a hub for organic growers, producers, permaculture practitioners and homesteaders. We have a bunch of great local farmers’ markets in our area, and we are grateful for this wonderfully supportive community of farmers and customers that continue to help shape a resilient and sustainable future for our children.
Where can we purchase some of your delicious produce, or find out more information?
Or just call Joe direct on 0428 965 088.