The Tasteful Garden: How to grow and cook what you love to eat

The Tasteful Garden: Get macro flavor from your microgreens

CorrespondentsOctober 18, 2013 

Not the same as sprouts, microgreens are prized for their tiny, pungent leaves.

COURTESY OF CAROL STEIN — COURTESY OF CAROL STEIN

Carol Stein grows it

Microgreens have been showing up on restaurant plates everywhere. They’re easy to grow at home year-round in a sunny window or where they’ll get several hours of daily exposure to bright light. My microgreens get about six hours of filtered afternoon light in a dining room window.

Microgreens are not the same as sprouts, which are grown in jars with water. Sprouts grow in the dark and are edible before any leaves appear. Microgreens require sunlight and are sown in small flats or containers of potting soil. They are prized for their tiny, pungent leaves.

Kate Brun of Lucky Leaf Gardens in Harrisburg supplies microgreens to chefs in the Charlotte area and wholesale distributors in the Raleigh area. Home gardeners can order windowsill garden kits through luckyleafgardens.com along with 40 varieties of organic seeds.

Brun heartily approved when I told her I sowed a ready-mixed packet of microgreen seeds into peat pots of rich potting mix and used disposable cake pans with clear plastic lids as mini-greenhouses. The blend of kohlrabi, Swiss chard, red cabbage and pak choi germinated two to four days after sowing and was ready to harvest in a week.

Sow the seeds in shallow, well-draining containers. Anything from grape tomato boxes or egg cartons from the grocery store to decorative pots will work. The key is to always use fresh potting mix. Add potting mix to within an inch of the rims and moisten the soil. Scatter the seeds evenly on the surface and cover them with a thin layer of potting mix. Use a spray bottle of water to gently mist the topsoil until moist.

Use your spray bottle to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. When the microgreens are about 2 inches high, harvest by snipping them with sharp scissors just above the soil. The clipped stems don’t produce more tasty leaves.

Debbie Moose cooks it

Several years ago, I visited The Chef’s Garden, an Ohio company that specializes in growing microgreens for chefs across the country. The tiny plants, no longer than my pinky finger, came in an array of colors, from dark-green radish greens to yellow popcorn sprigs. Each microgreen possessed an intense flavor, like a concentrated version of its big brother.

Now, studies indicate that microgreens may carry a big nutritional punch as well. Research on 25 kinds of microgreens by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland found that almost all of them had four to six times more nutrients than mature leaves of the same plants.

As Carol points out, microgreens are not the same as sprouts, which have been implicated in E. coli outbreaks. No problems have been attributed to microgreens, but it’s best to handle these tender vegetables carefully for the best flavor and texture.

From your home garden, use a sharp pair of kitchen shears to cut only the amount you need for immediate use. Rinse them gently in a salad spinner and dry well. If they’re still damp, spread them out on a towel to dry.

Moisture is the prime enemy of microgreens. Once they are completely dry, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. Use a hard container, not a plastic bag, to protect the fragile plants, and add a paper towel to absorb any condensation that may form. It’s probably better to use them fresh, though. After all, it only takes a couple of weeks to grow them, so just use them up and plant more.

Cooking microgreens would remove their charming flavor and texture, so use them raw or no more than gently wilted, as they would be if sprinkled atop soup. Use them instead of lettuce to liven up sandwiches or salads. Kate Brun suggests using micro-cilantro for fish tacos or putting micro-arugula on top of a hot pizza.

Any microgreens are great for this simple frittata, but micro-basil would really it give an Italian kick.

Reach Carol Stein and

Debbie Moose at tastefulgarden@hotmail.com.

Tomato-Microgreen Frittata

Using a sauté pan with rounded sides makes removing the frittata easier, but any frying pan will do. Just be sure it’s one you can put under the broiler.

3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped green onions 6 eggs 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes 1 good-sized handful microgreens

PLACE a 10- to 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the green onions. Stir and cook until the onions are soft but not brown.

IN a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Pour the egg mixture into the sauté pan over the onions. Place the cherry tomato halves evenly on top. Let the mixture cook without stirring for several minutes, or until the edges begin to set but the frittata is not completely cooked. It will still be liquid on top.

HEAT the oven broiler. Place the pan under the broiler and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the top of the frittata is puffy and slightly brown. Watch carefully; this will happen fast.

REMOVE the pan from the oven, slide the frittata onto a serving plate and top with the microgreens while the frittata is still warm. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 appetizer servings

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