Mi­cro­greens add unique flavour to dishes

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Ger­ald Filip­ski

ISHOULD have re­al­ized gar­den­ing would be one of my call­ings back in Grade 1. A sci­ence ex­per­i­ment where we had to sprout seeds saw me faith­fully watch­ing over mine.

I can still re­call the fas­ci­na­tion of watch­ing that first sign of life emerge from the pre­vi­ously dor­mant seed. I just thought it was mirac­u­lous a plant was grow­ing from this seed.

When my sprouts were tall enough, I pot­ted them and proudly took them home. My mother sug­gested I plant the young plants in the gar­den in an area I could call my own. Once planted, I thought Mother Na­ture had noth­ing on me. Later the same day, my fa­ther stopped to pull a few weeds from the gar­den as he came home from work. Yes, he pulled out my plants! I don’t think I ever saw my fa­ther more re­morse­ful.

My lit­tle story of­fers a segue to to­day’s col­umn on grow­ing your own mi­cro­greens — sprouted seeds or legumes. Mi­cro­greens are dif­fer­ent from sprouts in that they are grown in a soil-free pot­ting mix as op­posed to wa­ter for the sprouts. While the seed, root and stem are eaten with sprouts, with mi­cro­greens, you cut off the stem at soil level and do not eat the root or seed.

The seeds were con­nected to a sal­monella scare with sprouts that has sur­faced on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. Ac­cord­ing to Health Canada, be­tween 1996 and 2005 raw al­falfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts con­tam­i­nated with sal­monella have been linked to a num­ber of out­breaks in Bri­tish Columbia, Que­bec, On­tario, Saskatchewan and Al­berta, as well as in the United States.

The Health Canada web­site also dis­cusses po­ten­tial causes of the sal­monella: Sci­en­tists be­lieve the most likely source of con­tam­i­na­tion is the seeds that are used to grow the sprouts. Since you do not eat the seed in mi­cro­greens, the health haz­ard is not the same as with sprouts.

Mi­cro­greens have been made pop­u­lar by gourmet chefs in ma­jor restau­rants. The chefs are al­ways look­ing for some­thing new and in­ter­est­ing to add dis­tinc­tive flavour to dishes. Mi­cro­greens fill that bill nicely and can be used as gar­nishes for a punch of flavour or as a salad them­selves.

There are many crops to try as mi­cro­greens. Let­tuces, spinach, mus­tard, radish and arugula are among a few. Other veg­eta­bles such as broccoli, beets, cel­ery, cab­bage and even car­rots can add in­ter­est­ing flavours to dishes or make great salad blends.

Mi­cro­greens are ex­tremely easy to grow and can be grown on any sunny kitchen counter or win­dowsill. All you need is a shal­low tray, some seeds, ster­ile pot­ting mix and wa­ter. I like us­ing the plas­tic clamshells bak­ery prod­ucts come in. Dampen the pot­ting mix, but not so that it is sop­ping wet. It should be moist, but not drip­ping. Fill the tray or clamshell with 2.5 cen­time­tres of the pot­ting mix.

Plant the seeds as per the in­struc­tions on the packet. I rec­om­mend us­ing cer­ti­fied or­ganic seeds, which you can find in most gar­den cen­tres or on­line from a sup­plier such as Mumm’s Sprout­ing Seeds, a Saskatchewan com­pany with a good se­lec­tion of cer­ti­fied or­ganic seeds.

When plant­ing the seeds, try to get them in a sin­gle layer and not touch­ing each other. Use a spray bot­tle to wa­ter the seeds and soil­less mix. If the tray or clamshell does not have drainage holes, aim for keep­ing the soil moist, but never wet. You can al­ways punch some holes, but it re­ally is not nec­es­sary if you are care­ful not to over­wa­ter.

You should be ready to do your har­vest­ing in about five days, but taste your mi­cro­greens at dif­fer­ent stages. If you like the taste at a par­tic­u­lar stage, har­vest and en­joy. When har­vest­ing, cut off the plants at the soil level, but be care­ful not to in­clude any of the pot­ting soil it­self. Har­vest the plants daily un­til no new sprouts are emerg­ing.

Some of my favourites in­clude radishes and cel­ery. I love to add these two mi­cro­greens to sal­ads.

The great thing is you can try a new va­ri­ety ev­ery two weeks. Hav­ing new flavours from your own home­grown pro­duce adds in­ter­est to meals. Just make cer­tain you tell your near­est and dear­est they aren’t weeds.

— Postmedia News

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