A tangle of tiny pea shoots and miniature stems of fuchsia-coloured amaranth sure makes for a pretty plate. But microgreens are more than just a garnish.
Microgreens are seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs. Unlike sprouts, they are left to grow a little longer and are harvested right after they develop their first little set of leaves called ‘cotyledon’, which can take anywhere from 7-21 days.
Despite their size, microgreens are big on nutrients. Considered a superfood, they’re packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – almost 40 times more than mature greens. Fresh and crunchy, these mini greens are also intensely flavourful. The flavours run the gamut: think about the sharp peppery punch of arugula and radish microgreens or pea tendrils so sweet they taste like just-picked peas, and the spicy horseradish-like tang of tiny mustard leaves. In addition to being a pretty, ‘grammable garnish, microgreens can be added to smoothies and salads, baked into bread and stuffed into sandwiches – or eaten as a snack on their own.
Since their introduction to the fine dining scene – some say in California in the 1980s, microgreens have steadily gained popularity. Today, it’s a multimillion-dollar industry with farms across North America growing over 25 different varieties.
We’ve rounded up a list of eight farms in Ontario that grow microgreens using vertical farming systems. That means that their produce is grown indoors, in vertically stacked growing beds, in a controlled environment. Efficient and sustainable, vertical farming allows farmers to grow fresh greens, year-round.
The Six Farms
Six Farms in Toronto is run by a group of urban farmers and bioengineers who uses organic seeds and indoor vertical hydroponic farm systems to produce fresh, local, organic microgreens. They deliver freshly harvested greens to most areas in the GTA.
Founded in Nova Scotia over a decade ago, GoodLeaf Farms grow pesticide-free baby greens and microgreens using vertical farming methods. You’ll find their products in the produce aisle in most grocery stores.
This recently opened urban vertical farm in Kingsville grows a variety of pesticide-free microgreens right in their store. Customers can get a glimpse of the live crops growing in stacked shelves while shopping for mizuna, mustard and purple kohlrabi.
This family owned farm in Burlington has been growing microgreens for over 15 years. From pea shoots to red daikon radish, they grow over 10 different types of microgreens. Sprout Farm greens are packed and delivered within 24 hours of harvesting.
Working with plants in a farming situation has been a lifelong passion for co-owners Jon and Larissa. They use certified organic and GMO-free seeds, organic certified soil and ozonated water to produce fresh, crisp, flavourful microgreens that you can order via The Virtual Farmers’ Market.
Living Earth Farms
Ontario’s first certified organic vertical farm, Living Earth Farms grow summer fresh baby greens and microgreens year-round in their state-of-the-art indoor vertical farm in Toronto. Their microgreens are available online and in-store.
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This vertical farm based in Hillsburgh grows certified organic sunflower, pea shoots, radish and broccoli greens and wheatgrass 365 days a year. They use organic, non-GMO seeds and a locally produced soil mix to grow their crops. Farmstead Fresh microgreens are sold online and in-store.
Four Seasons Greens
A family-owned farm in Muskoka, Four Seasons Greens supplies fresh sprouts and microgreens year-round to restaurants, specialty retail outlets, resorts, and caterers in Muskoka. You can purchase their products directly through their sprout subscription program (CSA) where weekly deliveries are made to collection points across Muskoka. They also offer sprouting and nutrition workshops, and sell sprouting kits, seeds, supplies, and resources through their on-line store.
When you shop the produce aisle of your local grocery store, keep an eye out for these microgreens!
- Arugula – sharp peppery flavour | perfect topping for pizzas, also great in a green salad
- Pea shoots – sweet tasting like young snow peas | great for snacking, goes well with spring veg and adds a nice crisp to salads, stir-fries, pasta and sandwiches
- Mustard – sweet-hot mustardy flavour | adds a spicy kick to salads and pairs well with roast beef
- Broccoli – mild and sweet | best eaten raw
- Kale – mild with a sweet nutty flavour | perfect for salads, sandwiches and snacking
- Radish – peppery, slightly floral | adds a punch to sandwiches, burgers and wraps, great garnish for soups
- Amaranth – tastes somewhat like spinach | vivid red colour and slender stems make for a pretty garnish