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Microgreens: A trending, great way of getting extra nutrition

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Imagine consuming foods packing 4-40 times the nutrition of fully-grown vegetables.

Sure, that’s hard to fathom when used to consuming simple greens. But now, there’s a new trend that’s become increasingly popular, sweeping across the Chicagoland area and the country. They’re called Microgreens, which are the shoots of vegetables or herbs such as arugula, Swiss chard, mustard (and many more) that have been picked just after the first leaves’ initial development. And one local farmer has made it his mission to bring more than 50 varieties of microgreens into every local farmer’s market, eventually bringing him to Sunset Foods.

“As an example of how dense the nutrition is, a small handful of microgreens contains the same nutrition as a pound and a half of fully grown broccoli.,” says Elliot Hirsch, CEO and co-founder of Lake Forest Farms alongside wife Michelle. A native of Lake Forest, it’s only natural that Hirsch has begun offering his line of microgreens at Sunset. The store is the first local grocery to offer this product. These microgreens are about as local as possible, tying into Sunset’s overall mantra on offering hyper-local products that land in stores within hours of being ready to consume. And there’s a fascinating backstory as to how these microgreens arrived at Sunset in the first place.

"I met Eliot at a local farmer's market and after watching how his customers responded to him and his product, I knew we needed to offer his microgreens in our store," says Marketing VP Thaddeus Tazioli. "I am a lifelong microgreens fan and these are the freshest, most delicious that I have ever tried. I personally love Radish and Sunflower."

Working all day tending to the growing microgreens in his personal greenhouse with fluorescent and LED lights, Hirsch often reflects on just how much more nutritious microgreens are compared with other foods thought to be the healthiest – like any type of greenery. In his home, microgreens have played an especially influential role in the positive development of his children.

“Our boys 4 and 2 years old got hooked on it,” says Hirsch about how the youngsters randomly put a handful of microgreens on their PB&J sandwiches, never looking back. “Now it’s a thing; getting them to eat greens turned things around. They add them to everything, eat them straight, and also have turned all their playmates on to them as well.”

When asked how Hirsch initially became involved in the microgreen industry, he cited his newborn children as primary inspiration in addition to him wanting to pursue a lifelong passion. In his past professional life, Hirsch founded and ran a venture-funded advertising technology company during which he developed a personal interest in agriculture and would grow microgreens and other veggies privately.

Stemming from that knowledge base, Hirsch developed a microgreens growing technique. Using a 10-day old broccoli seed planted in ground up coconut husk (also known as “coco coir”), Hirsch used the soil as a renewable resource that would allow for the freshest microgreens to flourish. These microgreens have four to 40 times more nutrition in them than full-grown plants, Hirsch says.

The fact that these microgreens are grown local remains important given their delicacy, among other traits.

“It’s unique in [Sunset Foods] because we sell them live in a container,” says Hirsch of how customers take home microgreens. “When microgreens are cooled, they stay positive; when home, they’re live in the soil. Customers can take them home and put them directly in their refrigerators, as the greens still live in the pots they come in. This keeps them fresh for up to a month, and customers can simply snip off the portions the want as they go.”

Sunset Foods sells microgreens in their natural state rather than pre-cut, which Hirsch says ensures better quality for the greens and more enjoyment for consumers. Moreover, the Sunset Foods family respects Hirsch’s microgreens business due to quality and the fact that the items have local roots, according to Hirsch. Lake Forest Farms believes in healthy, local goods, and knowing exactly where your food comes from. The founders share that belief with customers who sincerely value the direct relationship had with them and the overall community.

“Sunset Foods is really receptive to local,” says Hirsch of his experiences in working with the like-minded family-owned gourmet grocery store chain.

Try Lake Forest Farms’ microgreens, available now in the produce department of the Lake Forest Sunset Foods.

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MAR
16

Sunset Highland Park Welcomes Mighty Microgreens to Shelves

Sunset Highland Park Welcomes Mighty Microgreens to Shelves

Microgreens are small but mighty, packing a huge nutrient punch in each bite. Here’s how microgreens add a pop of nutrition, color, and flavor to your plate.

What are microgreens?
Microgreens are very young greens. They’re harvested somewhere between 7 and 20 days after the seed has begun to sprout. They're only about 3-4 inches long.

Microgreen mix

 

Why are microgreens healthy?
All fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, are very healthy foods. Microgreens take dark leafy nutrition up a notch. Studies show that very young greens have the highest content of vitamins and minerals to weight—even higher than their mature older brothers.

Microgreens achieve this nutrient density because plant germination is an intense process. It begins when a seed meets water and oxygen at just the right temperature. Then the seed rapidly absorbs water and a bunch of nutrients from the soil. Because this nutrient uptake is happening very quickly, and because these plants are still very small, that plant’s first week or two of life is the most nutrient-dense it will ever be.

A study comparing lettuce microgreens to mature lettuce found that microgreens are significantly richer (sometimes up to 9 times richer!) in minerals like iron, manganese, zinc, and selenium. Microgreens are rich sources of antioxidants, too, and contain more different types of antioxidants than their mature older brothers.

What’s special about Fig Trade microgreens?Fig Trade logo
Fig Trade—the microgreens (not figs) on Sunset Highland Park’s shelves—are flown direct from Israel. They’re 100% hydroponically grown. Hydroponic systems allow the grower to control exactly how much nutrients and water the plants receive. Research shows the amount of minerals in microgreens climbs even higher when they’re grown hydroponically.  

Fig Trade does not spray any pesticide on their plants. Instead, they use Integrated Pest Management (IPM)—an agro-ecological approach that introduces “good bugs” into their greenhouses, and the good bugs suppress the “bad bugs”. Hence, no need for pesticides. (Don’t worry, all the greens are carefully inspected to make sure no critters make it into the packaged product.)

Fig Trade microgreens are available at Sunset in thyme, arugula, watercress, basil, cilantro, and parsley varieties.

How do I eat microgreens?
Microgreens can take your meal from ho-hum to gourmet! Here are some ideas...

  • Use them in place of lettuce on sandwiches and wraps.
  • Add them to a smoothie for a flavor and nutrient boost.
  • Swap out some regular greens in your salad for microgreens.
  • Use them in place of fresh herbs.
  • Mix them into pasta for a pop of color.
  • Use them to garnish just about anything! Throw some on top of soups, stews, eggs, chicken, meat, or fish. 

Microgreens salad

 

Stop by the Highland Park Sunset on Sunday, 3/18 or Monday, 3/19, from 11am-3pm to taste the delicousness of Fig Trade microgreens! 

 

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