is said to represent balance, harmony and rebirth. The zesty yellow-green 2017 Pantone color of the year, 15-0343, symbolizes the outdoors, eating and living healthier and preserving our environment.
It may be cold outside,
but plants and vegetables are still growing at this time of year. Farmers are producing a tasty variety of winter vegetables, herbs and micro greens.
is all about making the most of our resources and understanding our impact on the planet
We all know that we need to “eat more vegetables” in our daily diet and that includes more greens and lettuces, but micro greens, the tiniest leaves from budding vegetable plants, pack the biggest punch in terms of flavor and nutrients.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and at the University of Maryland, College Park, found that micro greens had four to six times more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plant. Cilantro micro greens specifically contained three times more beta-carotene than mature cilantro. These nutrients are important for skin, eyes and fighting cancer and have many other benefits.
Sometimes known as vegetable confetti, micro greens are the shoots of salad vegetables such as arugula, Swiss chard, mustard and beetroot that are picked just after the first leaves have developed. Micro greens include a variety of edible immature greens, harvested with scissors less than a month after germination, when the plants are up to 2 inches tall. The stem, cotyledons (or seed leaves) and first set of true leaves are all edible.
Likened to throwing vitamins on food, micro greens are also tasty and fragrant to boot, making them popular with chefs, including some here in Mid-Missouri, who use them as garnish and part of a variety of dishes.
Restoration Farms in Stover, Missouri grows 15 to 20 chemical-free micro greens year-round, including radish, mustard, yellow neck squash, beet, pea shoot, arugula, kale, red and golden chard, red garnet and sunflower shoots and herbs like basil and cilantro. The farm is owned by Larry and Kat Clark, who relocated to the area and bought 11 acres to grow vegetables and fruit in their hoop houses, raise goats and make goats milk soap and bees wax lotion bars.
Larry’s brother, Charles, who has worked as a chef in numerous restaurants in Southern California, helps tend to the micro greens that are grown in a greenhouse attached to the kitchen in their barn.
He also delivers them to restaurants like the Blufftop Bistro at Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport, west of Columbia, in the containers they’re grown in so it’s truly a form of farm-to-table experience.
“My farm is in the back of the restaurant where I have an entire station of Restoration Farm’s micro greens that are still in the soil and I just cut them off and use them in a lot of my dishes,” said Executive Chef Aaron View.
An accoutrement as well as part of the greens featured on the cheese and charcuterie plates served, View enjoys the options the micro greens provide on the menu or presentation.
“Usually chefs like to throw parsley on food to add some green to the presentation, but the micro greens are an elegant garnish that add both color and flavor to the dish,” he said. “The sweet pea and yellow neck squash are heartier than finer greens and stand up well when other cooks are working with them in the kitchen.”
He particularly likes the Asian mix, which includes and arugula, tatsoi (also known as spinach mustard) and wasabi, just like that found in sushi restaurants. Charles also makes a rainbow mix, which is nine plants mixed together after harvest.
“I usually let the chefs cut the micro greens so they’re working with a live product all of the time,” Charles said. “If they take care of the plants, they will get another grow back within a 2-week period.”
“I can order micro greens from specialty food suppliers but by the time we receive them they don’t have much life left in them, so I prefer to buy them from Charles,” he said. “For what you get in a small package I have been able to get quite a bit of mileage out of them and I have spread the word to other chefs, too.”
For more information on Restoration Farms, check out their Facebook page or web site. The Clarks will be selling the micro greens at the Osage Farmer’s Market in the spring and summer. They also offer a package of three different micro green seeds, with instructions on how to grow them.