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Microgreens: tiny greens with huge flavor

The market for mircogreens is holding steady this year but seeing prices lower than average as more growers continue to enter the market. Some of these growers are attempting to capitalize on the locally grown movement to sell their products. The majority of sales belong to the foodservice, mostly fine dining segment of the industry as microgreens are still relatively new to the public. “The consumer market is growing,” explains David Sasuga of Fresh Origins Farms, “but still very new to most consumers.”

Demand is increasing for microgreens that are properly grown to produce the highest quality. Microgreens grow best in bright, natural sunlight, and mild temperatures. This makes a huge difference in the quality, flavor and shelf-life. Microgreens grown in less than ideal climates often do not compare in flavor or quality. Fresh Origins in San Diego, California with 800,000 square feet of production and Koppert Cress of Cutchogue, New York with 150,000 square feet of glass greenhouses are two of the largest producers who have seen a steady increase in volume and acreage. “We work hard to provide the highest quality microgreens” states Sasuga, “We have a very large selection, consistent availability and a strict food safety program”.

Microgreens, which are seedlings of vegetables and herbs, are typically grown by traditional methods and sold as pre-cut. There are a small number of growers offering living trays as an alternative. Koppert Cress offers hydroponically grown living microgreens to eliminate the aspect of dirt which allows chefs to use the product right out of the kitchen. “We specialize in delivering very strong flavor”, states Nicolas Mazard, manager of Koppert Cress USA. “We find specific varieties and trace them back to their origin or heirloom variety. The taste is much more flavorful as it hasn’t been crossbred”. Most growers harvest microgreens at a young age of two to four weeks, cutting them just above the soil. They are packed in clear clamshell containers for shipping.

Pests are not a significant issue for microgreen growers, since the crop times are too fast for insects to get established. Disease can be a major problem under high humidity, extreme climates, and in and low light conditions. Although grown within a greenhouse operation, the weather can strongly affect these young seedlings. “Winter for us means the days are a bit shorter and a little cooler so our crop-times will increase,” explains Sasuga, “This means all of our greenhouse space will be fully utilized.”

A 2012 study conducted at the University of Maryland analyzed the nutritional value of microgreens, however the high percentage of nutrients listed were compared to old data and questionable comparisons. A new study for microgreens is currently being conducted to more accurately assess the amount of nutrients.

The vast majority of microgreens are used in restaurants. It is yet to be determined if the public will create increased demand in North America. Home cooks want to recreate the fine dining restaurant experience at home for their meals by using microgreens. They also see them being used on the Food Network. microgreens are a natural choice to deliver great flavor and good looks to any dish. Not conventional herbs or vegetables, microgreens are available in a wide variety such as basil, carrot and wasabi to spice up food. “They are growing more and more popular because of their flavor profile,” Mazard explains, “They’re a flavor ingredient, like spices, but living, or fresh-cut, they are healthy, delicious, and much more interesting.”

For more information:

Nicolas Mazard
Koppert Cress USA
Tel: 631-734-8500
Fax: 631-734- 8499

David Sasuga
Fresh Origins Farms
[email protected]