Our guide to Micro-green production.
Controlled Environment’s entry point.
With micro-green’s fast seed to harvest cycle, low cost of entry, and a nation of foodies, micro-greens can be an entry point to CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture). You can grow them in a micro-green system, in 1020 plastic flats, indoors, in a kitchen next to a window, or in a greenhouse. I’ve seen it all. Home made to hi-tech, people are always interested in micro-greens.
The number of seeds & seed mixes is plentiful. The taste and visual appearance are very pleasing and powerful.
My experience with Micro-greens.
Ok, here’s my up front admission. I grow very little micro-greens. (Pun Intended) Let me clarify, I no longer grow microgreens.
Like anything else I talk about, it’s about my farm’s role within my market. Remember, Victory Gardens only sells pre-made salads. When we would include micro-greens that had a much shorter shelf life than the rest of the ingredients of our salad. People were so used to our lettuce lasting days & days, that when a micro-green would go bad it would ruin the entire meal. Some of our clients eat our salads over a few days or save them for the weekend. So, for my farm, we changed our micro-green trays over to accept lettuce & greens. We kept two 6′ trays set up for micro-greens, but we only grow shoots. Specifically:field pea shoots. We also grow feisty pea shoots. We find they add enough punch, taste, and texture. When placed strategically & sparingly on top we can almost ensure they will be consumed first on the day of delivery.
Micro-greens for restaurant production.
When we grew our first set of micro-greens, we thought we had a home run as Victory Gardens was the only place that had micro-greens in town. We failed to pre-qualify our market. Restaurant owners couldn’t figure out what to do with them. The garnish factor fell on deaf ears as we were repeatedly told; “We don’t have time to garnish.” And they were right.
We had a few sales at the farmer’s market & a couple of collaboration for a micro-green topped pizza at our local bakery, but once we focused our efforts to salads, we made the decision only to grow shoots.
And now, who you should really listen to for micro-green information:
UnderGround Greens, Maryna Higgins http://www.undergroundgreens.com, Maryna is a Washington D.C. based micro-green exclusive grower. I went to her on her take on what micro-greens has meant to her, & here is what she said-
“Over the past year or two “microgreens” has become a new buzz word among urban gardeners and healthy food lovers alike. These young seedlings of herbs and vegetables are on track to earn their star status on a dinner plate and make kale and quinoa to step aside. If you are considering to join a ride and start growing them for yourself or commercially, here are a few varieties you may want to try first.
One of our personal favorites, radish microgreens taste like a fully grown vegetable with all its sweet, spicy and peppery flavors. It is easy to grow and take only 7-9 days from seed to harvest. Radish microgreens come in many varieties which makes it easier to satisfy many chefs’ taste for shape, taste, and color. We recommend Daikon Radish for their pure green leaves and white-green stems; Hong Vit Radish for green leaves and red stems; and Red Rambo Radish for deep purple microgreens. With high levels of Vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin E, these greens are perfect for salad blends, taco toppings and anything in-between.
These worry-free greens are popular all year long and especially in spring and early summer when chefs change their menus and incorporate pea shoots into their fresh and healthy creations. To take it a step further, experiment with a few varieties to explore your market preferences. Based on our research Speckled Pea Shoots are the most popular among the general public for their fresh pea flavor and wide tender leaves. Many chefs, however, prefer Tendril Peas as they make a beautiful addition to any dish thanks to their long curly tendrils. Whichever type you chose, don’t forget to soak the seeds for 8-24 hours before planting. You will be able to enjoy the greens in 10 to 14 days.
Sunflower shoots are making a statement popping up in grocery stores around the country. Their fresh meaty greens make for a perfect mid-day snack as well as a healthy protein-rich boost to a smoothie. And chefs like them too for their sweet profile and, more importantly, comparatively long shelf life. Most frequently used variety is Black Oil Sunflower and you should soak those for 8-24 hours before planting. They will take about 9-11 days to grow but make sure to harvest before the first true set of leaves appear as the Greens will lose their flavor intensity and the texture will be less pleasing.
Although challenging to grow, basil is a must-have on your list if you are trying to grow for restaurants. These microgreens are very delicate but extremely flavorful and beautiful. They come in many shapes and colors from deep green to dark purple. Start with traditional Sweet Basil and then explore Lemon Basil, Dark Opal or Red Rubin varieties. They are well worth the wait. Basil likes warm environment, so we recommend using heat mats to speed up germination. Microgreens will be ready to harvest in 14 to 20 days depending on your growing conditions.
Just like basil, cilantro can be tricky to grow, but chefs from Tex-mex taco joints to upscale restaurants are in love with it. Give it enough time to develop the first true leaf (up to 21 days) and you won’t be able to grow fast enough to satisfy the orders. Cilantro is slow to germinate and may take up to a week before exposure to light. To help with germination rate, soak the seeds overnight before planting. Make sure to buy seeds from a reliable source. With enough patience and love and some trial and error, you will master this delicious herb.
Growing microgreens may seem overwhelming to some. It takes a lot of planning to ensure harvest days for different varieties coincide and the greens are cut at the peak of flavor and texture; depending on your grow technique an appropriate grow medium needs to be selected; and it may be difficult to get the density right when you start. Don’t be discouraged. Practice makes perfect. It only takes about ten days on average to see any mistakes you may have made, so correct them and plant again. You will be glad you did.”
Johnny’s micro-green production guide really has the information needed without me, or anyone else for that matter, needing to weigh in. The following links will answer most any beginning questions you may have.
For additional regional market & micro-green information contact your sales rep here.
Do you still have micro-green questions?
Post below in the comments and I’ll make sure you get the specific questions answered. We encourage questions from everyone as that will help us make this page better!