Thursday, 18 February 2010
Micro-Greens From a Micro-Farm
Last week, I visited a very small farm. How small is it? Well, this is it... you are looking at the whole thing. It fits inside Sharon Zoschke's utility room very nicely, on shelves she built herself.
Sharon's sprouts start off as organic seeds and peas, which are soaked, drained and sprouted in these glass jars.
Nylon mesh circles in the mouths of the jars (cut from embroidery "canvas" bought at the craft store) keeps the seeds from getting too soggy and going bad. There's an art to keeping the seeds moist enough, but not too wet.
The sprouted seeds are then densely planted in a blend of seed-starter potting mix and vermiculite, and grown until they are dense and green. Then they are snipped and packed in 5 ounce bags, where if kept properly stored (refrigerated) they will keep for at least a week.
Sharon grows pea shoots, radish sprouts, sunflower seeds and what she calls buckwheat "lettuce". These are all micro-greens (small young plants) rather than actual sprouts, although they are marketed as sprouts since people are more familiar with that term.
The different plants have different requirements. For example the sunflower sprouts are started with weights on top (in this case trays of radish sprouts) otherwise they won't root down properly. Then they are exposed to the light to green up. The resulting greens look large and coarse for sprouts, but are surprisingly tender and delicate, with a lovely sunflower flavour.
These are well-established plants when they are cut, although still young and tender. They are fed with an organic mineral solution only. The buckwheat lettuce takes a bit of grooming, as otherwise it tends to hold the hulls.
The harvested greens are sold to a local store and become part of a CSA share. Soon, they should be appearing on the menu in a couple of local cafés.
The CSA was what got Sharon started. She asked the farmer who runs her CSA if there was any chance of sprouts being available during the winter. He said he could not do it as he was too busy, but perhaps she could do it. So she did. At this point, micro-farming doesn't produce much in the way of income. However, it's a way for Sharon to get her micro-greens in the winter and share them with others. She won't be producing them in the summer; she feels it's better to eat plants grown in the sun and (actual) earth during that time.
Sharon with a small tray of radish sprouts. Sharon is happy to tell you all about how she does it. She'll be running a class in sprouting at the 100 Mile Market in Meaford on February 23rd, and if you can't make that you can contact her about setting up other classes. (Grey-Bruce area.)
Last year at this time I made Sunflower-Vegetable Paté.