The Magic of Microgreens

Imagine a tiny little seedling, just emerged from the soil using the energy stored in a single seed. The first leaves are just beginning to unfold, and on the cellular level the tiny plant is bursting with newfound life. Cells are differentiating, nutrition levels are skyrocketing, and flavor is incredibly concentrated. There’s something so invigorating about eating one of these little life bursts, something almost magical.

Microgreens can be that final splash of color atop a gourmet dish, or they can be added onto a salad or into a green smoothie easily at home. Not only are they packed full of flavor and five times the nutritional content as the same plants in their mature form, but they’re tiny and pretty and we’re simply in love with them! Out at the farm we have microgreens on our salads for farm lunch (GTF provides a home-cooked meal for all employees three days a week), and we top most all of our dishes with microgreens in our own farm to table restaurant.

Because nearly five hundred varieties of vegetables wasn’t quite enough for us to juggle, we decided to start our own microgreen operation. For the past year we have been trying out different plant varieties and processing techniques, and now microgreens have become a solid piece of production at the farm. There are many varieties of micros that we have grown, but here are our main selections, complete with flavor profiles and followed by methods of production.

Microgreen Variety Breakdown

Amaranth – Burgundy

  • This dainty little microgreen wins the micro award, coming in at a towering 1-2 inches. It has become quite the favorite among chefs, as its deep burgundy stems and leaves provide a beautiful contrast atop many dishes.
  • Amaranth is most commonly grown for its grain, though we grow it for greens in our salad mix as well as a microgreen. It is related to beets and therefore has a very mild beet flavor.

Mustard Medley

  • We’ve been playing around with various ratios of different mustard greens for a while now, and we have finally landed on a winner—Mustard Medley #4, a combination of Arugula, Ruby Streaks Purple Mizuna, Miz America Green Mizuna, Ho Mi Dragon Tongue Mustard, and Golden Frill Mustard.
  • This microgreen has such a great wasabi-like kick to it, combined with some of the milder yet savory flavors of the more mellow mustards. Beyond the amazing flavor, the color variation in this medley is unique from all the other micros we grow.

Peas

  • Pea microgreens have very soft leaves, and a deliciously mild pea flavor. Due to their leguminous nature, these micros have especially high protein levels making them great for green smoothies.

Radish – Purple Leaf

  • This is another favorite among chefs for its deep purple color and mildly spicy flavor. The dark purple leaves fade down the stem to a lighter purple at the base, and little light green mutants shine through the sea of purple expressing the genetic diversity still present in the seed.

Radish – Purple Stem

  • These multi-colored radishes have slightly darker green leaves than the daikon radishes, only with bright pink stems. The spice level seems to be higher than the purple leaf, but milder than the daikon.

Radish – Daikon

  • This radish is my personal favorite. Both the stems and leaves are such a bright chartreuse color, the smooth, supple seedlings almost glow. Beyond the eye-popping color, daikon radish microgreens provide an intense, feel-it-in-your-nose wasabi spice reminiscent of purple roots that they could one day become.

This selection of microgreens works the best for us currently, though in the outskirts of the season it’s likely that we may play with cooler-weather crops such as micro dill and micro cilantro. We may even toy around with special kale mixes, beets, orach, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers, the possibilities are quite literally endless!

 

The Low Down on Growing Microgreens

Best office ever!!! We built cages to go over our greenhouse tables to keep mice off the microgreens. But we do like to open them up often so that the microgreens can feel free 🙂
Micro peas and beets on one of our house-made pasta dishes at our restaurant.

We make a special soil media for microgreens, heavy on peat moss, mixed with perlite and compost. This way the medium drains well and doesn’t keep the micros too wet, which can lead to dampening off.

We tamp the soil in the flats down to make a solid, flat layer that we can seed the micros onto. To seed the microgreens we simply shake seed onto the flat by hand, doing our best to sprinkle as uniformly as can be.

After we seed the flats, we cover them with a light layer of topper to protect the seeds, and water them in. We have to be careful not to water the flats in too hard, otherwise the nicely uniform seed that we worked so hard to sprinkle will get pushed around in the flat, leading to uneven germination. Microgreens are delicate little souls, they need everything to be just right.

Our pea process is a little different from the rest of the microgreens. First we have to soak them (check out the before and after soaking photo), and then we put them in flats without any topper. The flats must then be stacked and weighted down with bricks so that the peas root down into the soil and don’t pry themselves up into the air, which would make them very difficult to cut later. After a couple of days, we unstack the flats and let the peas do their thang!

We do micro beets in the cooler ends of the season, both spring and fall. Beets really hate being inside a greenhouse in a flat in the middle of summer, so they’re a special treat when we can have them. Beet microgreens have such succulent stems and leaves and a fully bright beet flavor.
Most weeks we have microgreens for sale at the farmers market, generally just PSU Saturday and Hillsdale Sunday. You can purchase greens by the pound or by the flat.
Mustard Microgreens sitting patiently on a creamed carrot soup at our restaurant.

I’d like to give a big thanks to all of the wonderful restaurants and individuals who have been taking advantage of our microgreens. Every week our order boards have been full and we’ve had to turn away customers, so we can only assume it’s time to up production. You can expect to see our microgreens atop dishes at the restaurants listed below and many more in the Portland area, as well as at our own restaurant, The Farmstand.

Thanks everyone for your support!

Here are some photos from Instagram of our microgreens at restaurants in Portland. It’s an honor to have our produce displayed so beautifully.

October 29th Market Recipes ft. Romanesco

Our brassicas are loving this crisp autumn weather! The brassica family is home to many fall favorites, such as romanesco, kohlrabi, radishes, and cabbage. Sadly I wasn’t able to take pictures before our samples were gobbled up yesterday, so I’ve included some other market photos for your viewing pleasure. Here’s what we sampled up downtown in the cool sunshine:

  • Watermelon Radishes, raw (October 8th Post)img_2948-2
  • Black Radishes, raw (October 8th Post)
  • Romanesco with Leeks and Chard Stem
  • Gill’s Golden Pippin Acorn Squash with Pimento Peppers

Romanesco with Leeks and Chard Stem:

Romanesco, although commonly thought of as a type of cauliflower, is actually just as separate from cauliflower as broccoli is. The formation and placement of leaves and other plant parts is called Phylotaxy, a process driven by the famous Fibonacci Sequence. Romanesco may be one of the only plants where the bare bones of this complicated mathematical form is visible and available for appreciation by the human eye. If you can bring yourself to cut into this beauty, Romanesco has an amazing nutty, cauliflower-like flavor.14656421_1322301794446585_2603067765083979695_n

  • INGREDIENTS:
    • 2 Leeks, sliced thin
    • 1 head Romanesco, broken into pieces
    • 1 bunch Chard, stems only
    • 1/2 head garlic, chopped finely (Beene Farm)
    • Olive oil
    • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • DIRECTIONS:
    • Broccoli and Romanesco look and taste nicest in a sauté if you maintain their form throughout the cooking process. The shapes that we chop things into change their texture and flavor. So instead of “chopping” it, try to use your knife to cut off individual little trees. Set aside.
    • Slice your leeks thinly. The entire leek is edible, even the dark green part! They cook down just the same.
    • Heat up your pan to medium-high with olive oil coating the bottom. Once up to temp, add in the leeks and let cook about 2 minutes.
    • Add in the romanesco and let cook covered 3-5 minutes.
    • Remove the stems from your chard leaves by slicing them out individually with your knife. Once you have a pile of bright stems, slice them thinly and add them into the pan.  Let cook another 3-5 minutes. I don’t like to crowd romanesco with leafy greens so that their beauty can be most appreciated, so the chard stem is a nice addition that adds some color without stealing the spotlight. But do make sure to save your greens and use them for some other delicious meal!
    • Finely chop the garlic and add it along with 1-2 pinches salt and pepper. Let cook another 3-5 minutes uncovered until the romanesco is cooked but still has some crunch.
    • Enjoy!

Gill’s Golden Pippin Acorn Squash with Pimento Peppers:

Acorn squash is the one winter squash that I grew up eating, which is strange since it is notoriously the blander of the squashes, requiring hefty quantities of butter and brown sugar to make it exciting. But the past two years we’ve been growing a new type of acorn squash that is supposed to put those bland old acorns to shame, with an intensely sweet flavor more like a delicata. It’s tiny, it’s golden, it’s Gill’s Golden Pippin. And because winter squash is always amazing when paired with peppers, I paired the sweet acorn with one of our sweetest pepper varieties, the pimento. Not only do we still have pimentos when it’s almost November, but they are still tasting as good as they did in the middle of August. 20161029_183524

  • INGREDIENTS:
    • 2 shallots, chopped fine
    • 2 Gill’s Golden Pippin Acorn Squash, sliced thin
    • 4 Pimento peppers, sliced thin
    • 1/2 head garlic, chopped finely (Beene Farm)
    • Olive oil
    • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • DIRECTIONS:
    • Slice off the ends off your acorn squash and then slice them in half. Scoop out the seeds, and slice lengthwise once more so that you have quarters. Make thin slices down the quarters and set aside.
    • Slice your pimento peppers in half and rip out the seeds and stem. Make thin slices down each pepper half and set aside as well.
    • Finely chop the shallots and garlic.
    • Heat up your pan to medium-high with olive oil coating the bottom. Once up to temp, add in the shallots and let cook about 2 minutes.
    • Add in the sliced pimentos and let cook covered about 3-5 minutes.
    • Add the acorn squash, garlic, and 1-2 pinches of salt to the pan and stir around. Cover and let cook about another 3-5 minutes.
    • Remove the lid and cook another 3-5 minutes until at desired softness. Add more salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

 

October 8th Market Recipes ft. Hakurei Turnips

This Saturday was one of my favorite markets of the season. It was a perfect autumnal Oregon day, complete with a misty morning and a beautiful sunny afternoon. Tis the season of cool days and warm sautés. This week I’m throwing in some photos of our market booth at the end of the recipes, everything was just too beautiful not to share. Happy cooking everyone! img_2948-2

  • Kohlrabi, raw (June 4th post)
  • Watermelon Radish, raw (right photo)
  • Black Radish, raw (right photo)
  • Hakurei Turnip: Raw & Tamari Stir Fry
  • Delicata Squash and Poblano Pepper, sautéed
  • Broccoli and Romanesco, sautéed

RECIPES:

  • Hakurei Turnip Tamari Stir Fry
    • For those of you who had the luxury of tasting these sweet treats in the spring, the rumors are true, Hakurei turnips are back in season. Raw, these turnips are soft and sweet and pure with fall magic. They can be eaten like an apple, added to a salad, or my favorite- used as a vehicle for dip. If you can stop munching them raw for a moment and use them in a stir fry, they are extremely satiating. There is no reason to not utilize the entire plant in the stir fry- the roots, stems, and leaves are all delicious and add to the meal.img_2947-2
    • INGREDIENTS:
      • 2 bunches Hakurei Turnips
      • 1-2 large shallots, chopped finely
      • 1/2 head Garlic, chopped finely
      • Olive Oil
      • Tamari
      • Salt
    • DIRECTIONS:
      • Finely chop the shallots and garlic and set both aside.
      • Remove the tails and tops from the Hakurei turnips, cut them in half, and then slice them thin.
      • Heat up your pan to medium-high with olive oil coating the bottom. Once up to temp, add in the shallots and let cook about 2 minutes.
      • Add in 3-5 Tbsp of tamari and let cook another minute, allowing the tamari to reduce ever so slightly.
      • Add in your Hakurei turnips and the garlic at this point. Adding garlic later in the cooking process preserves its flavor, which you definitely want when you’ve spent the time to peel and mince. Let cook about 3 minutes.
      • Roughly chop the turnip greens and stems and add them into the sauté. Add another splash of tamari  and a pinch or two of salt and let cook 1-2 minutes.
      • Turn off the pan and add more salt and tamari to taste if needed. Serve as is or over rice.
  • Delicata Squash and Poblano Pepper, sautéed
    • This amazing dish can only be enjoyed in a small window of time when we still have summer peppers hanging on despite winter squash encroaching on our market shelves. It was a favorite last year at market and continues to be one of mine, as the smoky poblano flavor compliments the creamy sweet delicata so well.
    • INGREDIENTS:img_2958-2
      • 1 Delicata squash, sliced into half-moons
      • 3-4 Poblano peppers, sliced thinly
      • 1-2 large shallots, chopped finely
      • 1/2 head garlic, chopped finely
      • Olive oil
      • Salt
    • DIRECTIONS:
      • Cut the ends off your delicata squash to make a flat surface, then stand it on end and slice it in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seeds. Make thin half-moon slices down the delicata. Set aside.
      • Finely chop the shallots and garlic.
      • Heat up your pan to medium-high with olive oil coating the bottom. Once up to temp, add in the shallots and let cook about 2 minutes.
      • Add in the sliced delicata and let cook covered about 4-6 minutes.
      • Chop the poblanos in half and rip out the seeds and stem (make sure to wash your hands after touching the spicy seeds). Chop each half into thin slices.
      • Add the poblanos, garlic, and 1-2 pinches of salt to the pan and stir around. Cover and let cook about another 3-5 minutes.
      • Let cook a couple more minutes to desired softness. Add more salt to taste, and enjoy! Customers last year said this dish was a hit at Thanksgiving.
  • Broccoli and Romanesco, sautéedimg_2954-2
    • INGREDIENTS:
      • 1 head Broccoli, broken into pieces
      • 1 head Romanesco, broken into pieces
      • 2-3 Carrots, sliced into discs
      • 1-2 large shallots, chopped finely
      • 1/2 head garlic, chopped finely
      • Olive oil
      • Salt
    • DIRECTIONS:
      • Broccoli and Romanesco look and taste nicest in a sauté if you maintain their form throughout the cooking process. The shapes that we chop things into change their texture and flavor. So instead of “chopping” it, try to use your knife to cut off individual little trees. Set aside.
      • Finely chop the shallots and garlic.
      • Heat up your pan to medium-high with olive oil coating the bottom. Once up to temp, add in the shallots and let cook about 2 minutes.
      • Add in the broccoli and romanesco and let cook covered 3-5 minutes.
      • Slice up a few carrots just to add some color to the green sauté. Add them into pan along with garlic and 1-2 pinches salt. Let cook another 3-5 minutes uncovered until the broccoli and romanesco are cooked but still have some crunch.
      • Enjoy!

img_2929-2

img_2939-2
Potato Varieties from left to right: Mountain Rose, Nicola, Rose Apple Finn Red Fingerlings, Purple Majesty, French Yellow Fingerlings

img_2923-2

September 24th Market Recipes ft. Poblanos with Purple Potatoes

It’s that wonderful time of year when autumn has just20160903_074715-2 begun, and our market stands are filled with both summer and fall foods. Yesterday at the Corvallis Farmers market our sample table was a perfect example of this, with a rainbow of fresh watermelon samples next to hearty fall sautes.

For those of you lovelies who have been reading these market recipe posts regularly, I apologize for posting sporadically during peak season. Now that things are beginning to slow down at the farm I finally have time to post again. Thank you for your support! Here’s everything we sampled up downtown yesterday.

  • Watermelon: orange, yellow, and sorbet20160924_112541-2
    • The season is coming to and end, we’ll have to eat as much melon as we can before they’re gone!
  • Specialty Melons: Charentais cantaloupe, Honey orange
  • Hot Chioggia Beet Salad (July 9th post)

NEW RECIPES

Poblanos with Purple Potatoes

  • Ingredients:
    • 1-2 large shallots, chopped finely
    • 6 medium purple potatoes: slice each potato in half, then slice in half again before making thin slices down the length of the potatoimg_2596-2
    • 6 poblano peppers, roughly chopped
    • 1 head garlic, chopped finely (We don’t currently have garlic, but Goodfoot farm has an excellent crop this year!)
    • Olive oil
    • Salt
  • Directions:
    • I like to chop everything in this dish before I even turn on the pan, because the timing needs to be right so that the potatoes and peppers finish at the same time. I often have trouble burning potatoes when cooking them with other vegetables, but I’ve found a little trick that takes away most of that risk. After you chop your potatoes thinly, spread them out on the cutting board and place a cloth or paper towel over them. Press down on the potatoes to remove as much water from them as you can. It makes a big difference! (And it works perfectly for hash browns.)
    • Note that the poblano seeds are often very spicy, so you’ll want to wash your hands well after removing them. A small amount of heat is retained in the peppers themselves, but for the most part it just offers an incredibly full flavor.img_2628-2
    • Coat the bottom of the pan in olive oil and heat it up to medium high temperature; if a piece of shallot sizzles in the oil it’s up to temp.
    • Add in the shallots, stir them around, and let cook about 2 minutes.
    • Add in the poblanos next, as they will take longer to cook than the thinly sliced potatoes. Cover and let cook 7-10 minutes.
    • The peppers should be about halfway done at this point; add in the potatoes and the garlic and let cook with the lid on another 5 minutes.
    • Remove the lid and add in 3-4 pinches of salt; stir. Let cook another 2-5 minutes with the lid off until the veggies are done to your satisfaction. I usually take out a sample to taste before deciding when a dish is done.
    • Optional Deliciousness:
      • This dish is my staple breakfast! I always add cheese, fried eggs, and hot sauce to tie everything together, and I highly recommend it. I even freeze bags of raw poblano slices so that I can make this all winter long.

img_2614-2

Fried Shishito Peppers

  • Shishito peppers look similar to a padrone, another small, green, thin-walled pepper, though they aren’t spicy 99% of the time (you never do know with peppers). Because they are so small, you don’t need to bother slicing them up. Cooking them whole retains moisture, saves time, and it’s fun to just pick one off the plate and eat the pepper straight off the stem.img_2638-2
  • Ingredients:
    • 2 pints shishitos
    • Oil, preferably high heat (not olive oil)
    • Salt
  • Directions:
    • Heat the oil up in the pan to medium high and dump the shishitos into the pan whole. Cover with a grease screen to avoid splattering.
    • Let the peppers fry in the oil 5-10 minutes, stirring them around occasionally.
    • Salt the peppers with 2-3 big pinches and let fry another 2-5 minutes.
    • Serve as a snack or side dish. I forgot to take pictures of samples at market yesterday so I recreated everything at home this morning. We ate the shishitos along with our poblano potatoes and they were delicious!

June 25th Market Recipes – Spinach Basil Salad and Fresh Pico de Gallo

Summer is officially here, and with it has come another slew of seasonal produce. It’s now that time of year when a few quick chops is all that stands between you and a meal of simple fresh food. The following recipes focus on quick raw dishes that can be enjoyed without turning on the stove, although I did break down and cook up some zucchini, I just missed it so much all winter.

  • Fresh Cucumber with Lemon and Salt20160622_090504 (2) 700 pixels wide
  • Fresh Kohlrabi with Lemon and Salt (June 4th post)
  • Cocozelle Squash Sauté with Black Kale and Garlic
  • Spinach Basil Salad
  • Pico de Gallo

FRESH CUCUMBER WITH LEMON AND SALT:

Cucumber season is in full swing! Eat them whole like an apple, slice them up with lemon and salt, mince them into a salad- cucumbers are good for everything.

COCOZELLE SQUASH SAUTE WITH BLACK KALE AND GARLIC:20160625_104941 (2)

Summer squash and garlic are soul mates, and when they are together, deliciousness is sure to result. Many people asked me, “One head of garlic? You must mean 1 clove?” No sir, no ma’am, I mean one head! Though garlic is most commonly treated as a seasoning, I prefer to treat it as a vegetable as it provides a savory flavor that makes vegetarian dishes feel especially filling. Feel free to add as much as or as little as you wish! I used Cocozelle in this dish, a type of zucchini that has thicker skin which helps the squash maintain its form without getting mushy in the pan.

  • 3 Cocozelle Summer Squash, sliced into discs
  • 1/2 Willamette Sweet Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 head Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch Lacinato Black Kale, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Coat the bottom of the pan in olive oil and bring it up to medium-high heat.
  2. Once up to temperature, add in the chopped onion and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add in sliced squash and garlic, stirring around to coat everything in oil. Sauté for about 7 minutes.
  4. Stir in the black kale and add a couple pinches of salt. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Timing is somewhat key here, as we don’t want the squash to get mushy. Make sure to add in the kale while the squash is still a little bit raw so that both the kale and the squash finish cooking about the same time in the pan.
  5. My favorite way to eat this dish is for breakfast topped with two fried eggs and some hot sauce. However it is also delicious along side rice and chicken, or just by itself.

SPINACH BASIL SALAD:20160625_104933 (2)

Spinach is not the biggest fan of hot weather, so I made this dish in an effort to enjoy it in its prime before we all have to go a month or two without its tender greens in our lives.

  • 1 bunch Spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2/3 bunch Basil, finely chopped
  • ~6 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • ~4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 Willamette Sweet Onion, minced
  • Salt to taste, 2-3 pinches

Directions:

  1. Mince the garlic and onion and place them in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour the olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar into the bowl, and mash the onion and garlic into the dressing a bit with the back of a spoon. This is the magic secret! All those onion and garlic juices will release into your dressing making it incredibly flavorful.
  3. Chop up the spinach and basil and toss them in the dressing.
  4. This salad is delicious as is, although if you let it sit 10-15 minutes before serving, the vinegar will break down the spinach a bit making for an extremely tender salad.

PICO DE GALLO:20160625_115024 (2)

Pico de Gallo is one of my main dinners during the summer. All you have to do is roughly chop up the following ingredients, dump them all in a bowl, and mix them around. Serve with tortilla chips, on top of tacos, or if you’re crazy like me, grab a spoon and experience just how fresh summer can taste. You’ll notice from this picture that I like my pico with heavy quantities of onion; for those of you who prefer less onion, feel free to add less.

  • 4 medium Tomatoes
  • 1 medium-large Willamette Sweet Onion
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch Cilantro
  • 1/3 bunch Basil
  • Lemon Juice to taste
  • Salt to taste