Farmer Lee Jones coined the phrase years ago, and continues to preach his gospel whenever he gets a chance.
“One of the things that always troubles me is when somebody just wants to use a microgreen as a garnish,” he said. “I think there’s such a missed opportunity there for us to convey the subtle nuance that each one of these varieties offers.”
Growing Up Green
Think of our varieties like people. From infant to adult, there are myriad growth steps along the way, steps where we express different facets of ourselves until we fully bloom into who we are.
We understand that our chefs want options. So we go the extra mile to give them options on their options, because one size does not fit all.
All Together Now
Take arugula, for example.
We offer our traditional arugula in micro, petite, ultra, baby and blooms. Think of our sizes like the silhouette stick figures on the rear window of a minivan − a family of stair-step siblings, rising from youngest to oldest, from newborn sister to biggest brother – and how every stage of a child’s life offers something unique to the
We begin with microgreens − the purest expression of a plant’s essence. Their dainty fragility is counter-balanced by disproportionately concentrated flavor. When a chef visits our farm, one of the earliest stops on the tour is our microgreens greenhouse. There, our microgreens expert Judit Ender leads chefs through a tasting.
The experience is revelatory as they encounter the intensity contained in filament-thin sprigs of micro carrot top, chive, basil, radish or beet.
At the petite stage, arugula is a full inch taller than micro, and its paddle shaped leaves are still small teardrops on pale, spindly curved stems. Here, the nutty, peppery flavor is a little more complex, yet sweetly so, and the tender stems are crisping up.
Ultra arugula has grown another inch and deepened in color that bleeds green into the stems. The leaves are broader and more elongated, with a hint of frill along their edges. The signature spiciness is more forward, and the stems more toothsome, adding an al dente textural dimension.
Don’t be confused by the name, but baby is our biggest arugula. Here is where the familiar elongated, ragged edged leaves are more pronounced, the stems are juicier and crisper, and the flavor is more complex thanks to a mild, pleasing bitterness. The overall texture is more substantial, but still tender.
And that’s not all.
Some plants bloom before they bear. But greens work the other way around and produce blooms (in a process called “bolting”) at the end of their life cycle. Some such blooms are bitter and unpalatable, but we selectively choose those that grow beautiful tasty flowers, then allow them to grow until they blossom.
Most farmers plow plants under once they bolt. In fact, Farmer Lee’s brother Bob Jr., was in the act of doing just that when a chef practically jumped in front of the tractor and begged him to stop, because the radish flowers he was about to bury could be so beautiful on his plates.
So we don’t do that anymore. Instead, we give the plants a little more time to see what else a plant they have to give.
We grow basil blooms, mint blooms, anise hyssop blooms, onion blooms (when they’re in season), mustard blooms, radish blooms and, of course, arugula blooms (and their super-spicy wasabi-hot cousin, arugasabi). Heck, we’ve even harvested the delicate white blooms of our cover crop of buckwheat grass!
All in the Family
Our arugula offerings don’t end there. Not by a long shot. Because in addition to four sizes, we offer four distinctly different arugula varieties as well as a mix. That adds up to twenty possible choices of one vegetable. You can test your multiplication skills with our other greens too: lettuce, spinach, mustards, Asian greens, tat soi, kale, bok choy, komatsuna, mesclun and red ribbon sorrel.
Farmer Lee likens the variety to boxes of crayons. “There used to be boxes of eight crayons,” he said. “Now, there’s sixty four!”
Happily Ever After
Many of our chefs tell us they like telling a story on the plate.
We’re totally into that. And to help tell those stories, we make it our job to grow the largest, most interesting cast of characters that we can. Because every stage of a plant’s growth offers something unique to the plate.