Locally grown microgreens on top of cornmeal crusted walleye with spring vegetable ragout at the Winds in Yellow Springs. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell

Microgreens grown locally gain popularity at area grocery stores, restaurants

Microgreens — tiny plants smaller than baby greens but more mature than sprouts — have been trending in popularity with chefs, restaurants and area farmers markets.

The nutrient dense produce have grown popular as a way to color and flavor to sandwiches, soups, salads and stir fries.

“They are really high in their nutrient value and they add a good presentation to your entree,” said Dean Sink, with Hydro Growers, based in Pleasant Hill, who has added microgreens to his business about five years ago.

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Most of their business is with restaurants, though Hydro Growers does have a booth downtown at Second Street Market.

Michelle Mayhew, Dorothy Lane produce director, said microgreens have been a long growing trend that grew from restaurants — where food trends tend to start — to grocery stores and home cooking.

“People started using them as garnishes and found out how flavorful they are,” Mayhew said. “It’s definitely growing because we went from like three varieties to six to eight. So that tells you the trend is growing.”

Small hobby farms and larger operations have started producing microgreens in recent years. 80 Acres Farms, which does indoor vertical farming and is expanding in Hamilton, grows microgreens and Waterfields in Cincinnati is one of the larger suppliers of the specialty greens to chefs in the region.

The crop has a quick turnaround since the plants are harvested so early. It’s a product with a short shelf life, which has created a market for local farmers to be the suppliers, said Sam Wickham with Fox Hole Farms in Brookville.

Wickham said her farm’s products are on shelves at two of the Dorothy Lane Market locations and they are also a vendor at Oakwood and Centerville farmers markets.

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“They are pretty popular. They are kind of our workhorse right now,” she said.

Stephen Mackell, farm manager with Mission of Mary Cooperative in the Twin Towers neighborhood, said his organization has taught classes in the past on microgreens and said they help attendees understand the difference between microgreens and sprouts.

Sprouts have been a popular item on grocery shelves in kitchens for longer than microgreens and are germinated seeds that typically have sprouted but haven’t done photosynthesis yet. Microgreens are grown until they have a few leaves and are a green product.

“It tastes like you are eating a plant rather than a little protein sprout,” Mackell said.

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