New Book Reveals Secrets of Growing Microgreens For Profit
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For many years, microgreens were grown primarily for sale to upscale restaurants. These tiny plants are used as a garnish for main dishes like fish or pork to add color and taste, served as a mini-salad, or added to a salad of larger leaves such as spinach or arugula. Today, that has all changed, and microgreens have become widely known and used, not just by trendy chefs, but by anyone who appreciates fresh, tasty food. One food writer called it the “microgreening of America.”
When a food goes from unknown to a hot food trend, there is money to be made. Unlike most other specialty food crops, microgreens are easy to grow, and can be ready to sell in just ten to twenty days. They can be grown indoors or outdoors, so microgreens are a perfect crop for urban farmers who may not have access to a patch of dirt. In fact, many small growers prefer indoor growing, as it allows more control over light and temperature, so crops can be grown more quickly, and harvests are more predictable Because microgreens are expensive, selling for $20 to $30 a pound, growers can produce a solid income in a very small space compared to traditional farming.
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are tiny, edible greens that are older than a sprout and younger than a full-grown plant. Microgreens are harvested after their first true leaves have developed, before they develop into larger plants. They are the smallest of the salad greens and herbs, smaller than the “baby greens,” and can be grown from almost any plant variety that would produce a mature plant, such as arugula, spinach, radish or basil.
When microgreens are harvested, their flavor is often more intense than the mature plant, like the spicy micro-radish or micro-mizuna. This intense flavor is part of their culinary appeal. The most common microgreens come from the crucifer, or cabbage, family of plants, and are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. So not only do microgreens supply flavor, texture and color to a salad or main dish, they’re also nutritious! Some of the most common microgreens are amaranth, arugula, beets, basil, cabbage, celery, chard, cilantro, cress, kale, mustard, parsley, radish and sorrel. Most commercial growers also offer microgreen mixes for a blend of tastes and colors.
One successful grower, Kate Brun, profiled in chapter 1 of Growing Microgreens For Profit, went from growing in the sunroom of her home to a 400 square foot greenhouse, then a 1,600 square foot greenhouse in about a year. Kate grows 40 varieties of organic microgreens, from broccoli and arugula to sunflower and popcorn. In addition to her regular restaurant and grocery customers, she sells her greens at several local farmer’s markets. She says:
“As far as a chef is concerned, microgreens are like a bow on a present. You can wrap it in paper, and it’ll still be good, but if you put a fancy bow on top, it becomes gorgeous.” One of her chefs loves her microgreens because, “ I can utilize every pound or ounce I buy. It makes for a way prettier plate, and makes everything a little more polished and refined.”
She encourages new growers to give microgreens a try, as it appeals to those who are seeking locally grown food and “foodies,” who love the taste and texture of microgreens. Another plus – it’s a novelty crop, making it easier to land a spot at local farmer’s markets, as opposed to traditional crops like tomatoes or lettuce.
Growing Microgreens For Profit provides all the basic startup information a new grower needs, including:
- Best micro greens to grow – 15 varieties that are easy for beginners.
- Microgreen mixes – 4 popular blends, from a basic salad mix to a spicy Asian mix that are perfect for retail customers and restaurant chefs.
- Seed selection – A 10 point checklist for choosing the best seed.
- Growing equipment – From growing trays to lighting to soil, even germinating aids and harvesting tools, so you can learn what you need and why.
- 3 steps to a perfect micro green crop – Even if you’ve never grown micro greens before, chapter 4 takes you by the hand and walks you through the process of planting, growing and harvesting micro greens. There’s even a section on common production problems and solutions.
- Once you’ve got a crop of microgreens, how do you sell them? Chapter 5 covers the 3 main markets for microgreens, who to see and what to expect. The “Proctor & Gamble Secret” to gaining new customers, and the 3 secrets to successfully selling to restaurants, directly from successful growers.
- Chapter 6 covers all the resources a microgreen grower needs, from videos to seeds to grow lights. Here, you’ll find the 8 best videos for new growers, wholesale suppliers of microgreen seeds, wholesale sources for trays, growing pads, lights, propagation mats, fertilizer, biodegradable containers to package your greens and label sources.
- Chapter 7 shows you how to build the “Microbox,” designed for growers who are just getting started. Perhaps you’re not sure if growing micro greens is right for you, or just want to start out small. The micro box takes just 4 square feet of floor space, costs around $200 for materials and takes about 4 hours to build. Using the micro box, you can grow up to 20 pounds of micro greens a month.With micro green prices over $20 a pound, the micro box can pay for itself quite quickly. It can be used in a basement, garage or spare room – anywhere you can find a 2’x2′ space.