by Steve Anderson, owner of Sun Dog Industries LLC, Oshkosh. 11/17/21
A nutritional and flavor supplement for everything from soups, salads, to sandwiches, microgreens are edible young plants that are grown from a variety of herb and vegetable seeds. The green itself consists of a stem, immature leaves (cotyledons), and usually one true leaf set, and is not to be confused with the typical sprouts and shoots one sees. Young plants offer different flavor profiles, textures, and colors than their more mature iterations. Nutritionally microgreens are packed with value, and enhance almost any dish with their aromatic qualities and visual appeal. Red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish have the highest concentrations respectively of vitamin C, K, and E. On average, microgreens contain roughly 5 times greater nutritional content than their mature counterparts by weight! Whether discussing basil, celery, carrot, or cabbage, the greens are grown using a minimal amount of light to preserve their sweetness. As plants grow and photosynthesize they become tougher and more bitter, which is why microgreens are only grown for roughly 2 weeks before being harvested. They are harvested when they reach a height of roughly 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.6 cm). The goal is to grow a plant that is edible in one perfect bite and doesn’t overpower whatever it is being paired with. Microgreens are also not to be confused with baby greens or petite greens, each is its own thing. The most popular variety is known as a “rainbow mix” which usually includes arugula, beets, kale, and cilantro and was pioneered by adventurous chefs from California in the early ‘90s. Because of the difficulties transporting these delicate plants, mass production and distribution of microgreens remain a challenge for commercial growers and conventional food distributors. This has contributed to the rise of many “Market Gardens,” like Sun Dog Industries hopes to become, or other small-scale backyard operations that grow and sell microgreens at farmer’s markets and the like.