If you’ve ever held a package of microgreens from New Natives in your hands, it might be hard to imagine how many of them it would take to reach a thousand pounds. That’s how much Ken Kimes, Sandra Ward and their staff produce each week at their 25,000 square foot greenhouse operation in Corralitos.
“We started in the food business back in 1979 when Sandra and I moved up here from Riverside,” Ken said recently. At first they hauled organic fruit and produce to and from San Francisco, including apples from Thomas Farm. Gradually they began growing various vegetables before they settled on microgreens, and their business took off. Today New Natives believes they are the largest producer of microgreens on the central coast.
Although the production focus is on microgreens, New Natives also produces wheatgrass, sprouted lentils, and two types of mushrooms, Shiitake and Oyster.
Microgreens are seedlings of various vegetables and herbs that are harvested without roots just 7 to 14 days after germination. They are grown either in soil or a soilless medium. New Natives uses only organic seeds and they make their own soil mix using plant roots and stems mixed with other inputs that go through a cold-composting process. “We don’t use any animal waste in our mix” Ken explained. Growing and packaging microgreens is labor intensive, and getting to the farmers market at the peak of freshness is what keeps customers coming back for more every week.
The Macro Benefits of Microgreens
According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, microgreens can contain up to 5x times the nutritional content of their fully grown brethren, plus they’re delicious and easy to use in a variety of dishes. The flavors are diverse, ranging from spicy to sweet, and have a wide range of textures and color too. Not all microgreens contain the same types of nutrients either. Red cabbage, for example, ranked highest in Vitamin C, while cilantro had the highest level of carotenoids.
New Natives sells eight different types of microgreens, including micro-cilantro, scallions, broccoli, sunflower, radish, and arugula. Each variety apparently has its own group of followers. “If we don’t have a certain kind of microgreen, or we ran out by the time a customer gets to the market, some people get pretty intense,” according to Ken.
A fresh food, locally grown, super delicious and highly nutritious makes microgreens an easy choice for many farmers market shoppers. So what is Ken’s favorite way to eat them?
“Sandra makes this dressing using white miso”, said Ken, “and I just take a dinner plate and pile it up with microgreens and put then pour this miso dressing on it. It’s awesome.” (By the way, here’s the recipe for Sandra’s sweet white miso dressing!)
RECIPES: Microgreens with Curry Vinaigrette, New Native’s Bean Dip, Spicy Asian Pea Shoot Stir-Fry, Seared Ahi and Microgreens Salad with Lemon Infused Daikon Red Onion Slaw, Stacked Beet, Avocado, and Mixed Microgreens Salad, and White Berry and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Microgreens
READ MORE ABOUT MICROGREENS: Microgreens Pack a Big Nutritional Punch, Say Researchers
PINTEREST: For all the Pinterest fans, here’s a collection of microgreens recipes with beautiful photos.