Market Watch: Microgreens

Micro Mesclun from Windfall Farms, Union Square Greenmarket, NYC.

Spring is here, and the farmers' market offerings are slowly transitioning from squash, root vegetables, and cold storage foods to fresh spring produce in the weeks ahead.  One of the first fresh spring finds to look for are microgreens.

Microgreens are similar to hippy, 70's sprouts, in that they are the first small growth from a seed.  However very different from sprouts, in that they are planted in soil (sprouts are cultivated in water or damp cloth or paper), and grown in sunlight like you are starting the full sized plant or green.  However, sometime between 8-14 days the microgreen is hand snipped at it's base, leaving the root behind (again, different from sprouts), leaving you with a teeny tiny, crunchy green, that is a micro flavor bomb.

Arugula, lettuces, beets, radish, and kale are very commonly used for microgreens, but cilantro, basil and wasabi are available for a really exciting addition.  They are used frequently as a fancy-schmancy garnish in restaurants, offering great color and texture, in addition to a burst of flavor on the top of a dish.  But use them at home for a delicate little salad, to top off a piece of grilled seafood, or anywhere you want to add a small bit of freshness without overpowering a recipe with large greens leaves.  They are thin and delicate, so are perfectly tender just eaten raw.

Keep an eye out for them at the market, or grow your own in some seed flats in your window until the weather gets a little warmer, and then set aside a micro-patch of garden for the rest of the season.  Ready in just over a week, I've planned ahead for dinner parties, planting seeds a week or so prior, and snipping fancy-schmancy garnishes of my own hours before my guests arrive.  Impressive?  Yes.  Easy?  Yes.  Flavorful, healthy, and fun on plate?  Yes, yes and more yes.

Gruyere and leek tartlette with homegrown arugula microgreens.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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