I've always considered myself a winter enthusiast. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing better than a huge snowstorm followed by a day filled with winter sports and hot chocolate by the fireside. As much as I enjoy the colder months, however, there is something important that the winter season fails to provide for me: fresh produce.
Once the initial novelty of snow has worn off, I find myself missing the backyard gardens and the farmers markets that provide me with fresh fruits and vegetables during the warmer months. It doesn't take an environmentalist to know that locally-grown food is often far tastier than its imported counterparts and often comes with a cheaper price tag. Fortunately, a new trend in the food world has allowed me to have my cake and eat it, too — that is, enjoy the winter weather while enjoying fresh produce. The answer is microgreens.
For those of you who haven't heard of microgreens, they are the immature stems and first leaves of vegetables and herbs. These greens are grown in soil using regular seeds, but are harvested when the plant is merely a week or two old. Essentially any garden plant can be grown for microgreens including lettuce, mustard, broccoli, beets and parsley, to name a few.
Micogreens have been trendy in the upscale restaurant scenes of Western America for a while and are quickly gaining popularity in Salt Lake City. Apparently, what microgreens lack in size, they make up for in taste. Prominent chefs around the country have praised the tiny veggies for the intensity of their flavor. Although I have never actually tasted a microgreen vegetable myself, my research suggests that their taste is merely a more intense version of their mature forms.
The first leaves of a vegetable provide the most pure and uncompromised flavor. As the leaves open and begin to harness energy from the sun, their flavor changes. Not only do microgreens offer amplified flavor, these plants are at the peak of their nutrition when their first leaves appear.
Though the use of microgreens was pioneered by prominent chefs, it seems that more and more "ordinary" folk have begun growing these small but tasty veggies in their own homes. Better yet, you really don't have to be that good at gardening to start your own microgreen patch! Since the growth span of microgreens is so short, they can be produced on windowsills with minimal sunlight in the coldest months of the year. Wherever you can grown houseplants, you can start growing your next meal!
The startup costs for a home microgreen operation is minimal. Salt Lake City's Mountain Valley Seed Company
sells beginner kits that include trays, soil, seed and a cover for just $18. If the lack of fresh produce is giving you the winter blues, maybe you should try growing your own microgreens so that you can add that touch of home-grown goodness to your next meal!