It’s blustery outside, and someone mentioned snow in the forecast. Memories of lush summer gardens have turned brown and faded away. Take heart. Black Hills Organic is growing microgreens, wheat grass and shoots so you can partake of scrumptious greens throughout winter and beyond. Owner Karl Schaffner’s greenhouses are filled with trays of the emerging baby leaves.
What are microgreens? They are the first leaves of salad vegetables and herbs like peas, beets, broccoli and basil. Small but mighty, these little leaves pack a nutritional powerhouse. Studies show that microgreens are four to forty fold more concentrated in vitamins than their mature counterparts. Red cabbage microgreens can have 40 times more vitamin E and six times more vitamin C.
Depending on the plants, these budding leaves contain beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and K plus lutein which is an especially important nutrient for eyes and skin. The stem, cotyledons (embryonic leaves) and first leaves are all edible. They grow within weeks – more slowly in the cool winter and with great speed (within days) in the warm summer.
Karl Schaffner’s property is nestled in the Black Hills and provides expansive views of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens (and other peaks) when it’s sunny and clear. Perhaps it brings a flavor of his original home in Bavaria, specifically Landshut, Germany.
He likes utilizing a relatively small area for a big return in the production of microgreens. It’s a great nutritional and ecological return on the space. He’s an enthusiastic eater of these baby greens. “I love sunflower shoots,” he told me as he snipped a bunch and put them in his mouth. I tried the pea greens. They have a robust pea taste but yet a delicate feel in my mouth.
How do you eat microgreens? Karl likes a giant bowl mixed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. You can cook them, too. Flash fry in a hot skillet with ginger and garlic. He recommended putting them over rice. You could roll them up into a wrap, too. Greens are so satisfying for Karl that he rarely eats meat. There’s plenty of protein in the shoots.
He used his skill as an architect to build his own green houses that include passive solar technology. Big water barrels along the exterior of the building warm-up with the sun by day and give back heat at night. All of Black Hills Organic’s seeds and soil are, indeed, organic. Seeds come from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Todd’s Seeds and Mountain Valley Seed Co.
“It’s very rewarding,” noted Karl as he talked about feeding people with healthful food. Optimal well-being has been integral in Karl’s life for decades. Armando DeLao works side by side with Karl and is also a full time student at The Evergreen State College. He and Jamie Songer make up the team at Olympia Farmers Market. They’ll be back on Saturdays starting in January. Until then you can find freshly trimmed microgreens at both of the Olympia Food Co-ops.
You might call microgreens vegetable confetti. Restaurants often sprinkle them as colorful garnishes that are meant to be eaten. Brighten your winter plate with these sweet, delicious tasty treats. Actually it’s a great way bring freshness and vibrancy to your meals every day. Make friends with baby kale, cabbages and daikon. Feast on them by the bowlfuls. Make your side of life the greenest ever.
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Eat Well – Be Well