By Kasey JonesJust by driving by Felicia McKee’s house, one wouldn’t know that she has a thriving gardening business. Unlike most gardeners, McKee’s main product grows inside her house, rather than outside. McKee grows and sells microgreens at the Jonesborough Famers Market.
McKee began Midway Fields Microgreens three years ago after going to the Jonesborough Farmers Market as a customer. “I would see everything that everyone would have and it would be a lot of stuff that I had in my own garden,” said McKee, “so I wanted to grow something that no one else had — something different and unique. That’s when I got the idea of the microgreens.”
A microgreen is exactly what it sounds like — a micro-version of a green plant. These nutritious plants are harvested between the sprout stage and the full-grown plant stage. Microgreens are often confused with sprouts. Unlike the underdeveloped sprouts, which are grown in damp, warm and dark conditions and could harbor E. Coli and other bacteria, microgreens are grown with sunshine, fresh air and water.
“A lot of people have heard of sprouts, and you can go to the health food store or the salad bar and see sprouts, but sprouts are the first stage of the microgreen,” said McKee. “I actually start them out as sprouts, but then I take the sprouts and I put them in dirt and grow them. That’s what makes them okay to sell, because a lot of people don’t know that you can’t sell sprouts at a farmers market.”
The tiny microgreen packs a punch with respect to nutrients, containing protein, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, G and E, as well as iron, phosphorus, magnesium and chlorophyll. “They’re better for you than spinach,” said McKee, “The nutrients are more concentrated because they are grown and harvested within 10 days.”
“Some plants don’t do well as a microgreen because they’re hard to grow,” said McKee. “Some things like to really hold on to their seeds and they’re just so labor intensive to cut and they’re just so tiny.” However, there are a number of plants that can be more easily harvested in the microgreen stage, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, radishes, dun pea, buckwheat, and McKee’s primary product, the sunflower.
For those who haven’t tried microgreens, McKee encourages people to use try them, especially in salads. The sunflower microgreen is actually substantial enough that you can make a whole salad out of it, instead of lettuce, and just use that as the base of your salad. “It’s 10 times more nutrients, vitamins and minerals,” says McKee, “Pretty much anything you can do with raw lettuce and more, you can do with microgreens.”
Recipe: Veggie Wrap with Microgreens
Goat cheese (plain, flavored, or another spreadable cheese)
1 whole small chopped tomato*
½ chopped cucumber
Cracked black pepper
Smear the goat cheese evenly onto the tortilla. Place a thick layer of microgreens across the center of the tortilla, following with chopped tomato and chopped cucumber. Add sea salt and cracked black pepper for seasoning as needed.
*McKee also uses Roma tomatoes because they have more meat and less pulp, seed and juice. She also recommends almonds and dried cranberries as potential additions to the wrap.