WebMD reported on this study, with a USDA researcher sharing these thoughts about why microgreens are so nutrient rich: “Because microgreens are harvested right after germination, all the nutrients they need to grow are there . . . If they are harvested at the right time they are very concentrated with nutrients, and the flavor and texture is also good.”
Microgreens are consistently tender and flavorful, although the actual size of a microgreen varies from plant to plant, since its size is relative to the size of a full-grown version. Many microgreens are one to two inches in length, although a more accurate definition of a microgreen is a plant that is showing its first true leaf.
Here’s another way to look at the definition. When an embryonic leaf of a seed-bearing plant first emerges, it’s known as a cotyledon leaf. These leaves are not distinguishable from other types of leaves so, just by looking at a leaf, you can’t identify them as corn or basil or squash. So, when you can first say “hey, that’s a parsley leaf,” then that plant has moved into the nutrient-rich, flavorful microgreen stage. The Chef’s Garden harvests plants at this stage, while allowing other plants to go on to the next four stages of growth: petite, ultra, baby and young.
Once a plant gets past the microgreen stage, a palette of choices emerges, and Executive Chef Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute suggests that chefs consider what size of brush stroke they want to use in a dish. “What kind of impact do you want a product to make?” he asks. “What kind of story are you telling? Once you know that, you can decide what volume of flavor you need to move through the dish.”
He imagines a dish as having unfilled geometric forms and the farm products can fill in those shapes, allowing chefs to comfortably navigate the design process. “If your dish is heavily weighted,” he said, “you’d use bigger vegetables than when you are making a dish that is delicate and light. Having vegetables of all sizes allows us to create what we visualize, giving us all the tools we need in the colors and sizes needed to produce what we imagine.”
Petite-sized vegetables are still fairly small, with a petite carrot being an inch long. Other petite vegetables are two inches long. By the time the carrot would reach the next stage – the ultra-vegetable stage – the carrot would be two inches long. The next stage is the baby vegetable stage. A round squash at this point in its growth would be golf-ball sized – and then there is the young vegetable stage, which is the largest size sold by The Chef’s Garden.
With some products, Jamie says, you get the same basic flavor profile across the size spectrum, but that isn’t always the case. “Lettuce is a good example,” he says. “Smaller lettuces can’t handle the dense emulsions like larger heads can. For example, a Caesar salad has dense emulsion with garlic, anchovy, black pepper and olive oil, and a petite head of romaine lettuce couldn’t handle that, and would become weighted down. But you could use those same flavors in a dish and use the petite lettuces beautifully.”
When a plant begins to bud, vegetables are usually plowed under because they have bolted, losing their prime flavor. But, after a chef pointed out the value of vegetable blooms to Farmer Lee Jones, we began nurturing these vegetables through the budding stage to harvest colorful blooms, as well. Some chefs also appreciate mustard seeds, basil seeds and the like that are available at the end stage of plant growth.
Potatoes are sized differently from other vegetables, with a letter system being used. The largest potato available is sized “A,” with grocery store potatoes typically ranging from A to C. The Chef’s Garden, however, grows potatoes that are labelled A through F, with F-sized potatoes being comparable to a pea in size.
If you have a question about the right product size for your needs, contact your product specialist or contact us online today!