Cape Coral's Florida Microgreens: Purveyors of Tiny, Nutrient-Packed Powerhouses
I initially met Rachel Shemanski, co-founding partner/owner of Florida Microgreens, last November at a SWFL restaurant event in Bonita Springs. While her colorful and bountiful table piqued my curiosity, her beyond-flavorful vegan soup samples reeled me in.
While I sorta knew what microgreens were from working as a restaurant PR girl for years, I didn’t know how versatile and nutritious these teeny treats are. Or that average Jills could cook something delicious with them.
Instead, I had always viewed them as dining décor, meant to add a pretty element to a plate, then mostly pushed aside. Turns out I'm not alone on that; Rachel shared that “Chefs tend to order microgreens for the aesthetics, impactful color and intensified flavor. Our other customers are interested in health and flavor.”
According to a University of Maryland study, these mighty tiny greens pack a powerhouse of nutrients, noting: “In general, microgreens contained considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature plant counterparts, an indication that microgreens may be worth the trouble of delivering them fresh during their short lives.”
I called Rachel to get more scoop on Florida Microgreens, which grows its goods on an "urban vertical hyroponic farm." And found it so interesting that her biz partners are her fiancé AND ex-husband, co-working peacefully. Their business was inspired straight from the heart: “We made a choice to have children and to raise them as a unit in the most healthy way possible," notes Rachel, whose 20+ career in the restaurant industry in Rhode Island before moving to Cape Coral made this next step a natural progression. "While it’s easy to pop a pill or supplement, why not go with a natural, non-processed choice?”
FBP: So what exactly is a microgreen?
SHEMANSKI: Microgreens are used both as a visual and flavor component or ingredient by chefs to enhance the beauty, taste and freshness of their dishes with their delicate textures and distinctive flavors. Smaller than baby greens and harvested later than sprouts, microgreens can provide a variety of leaf flavors, such as sweet and spicy. They are also known for their various colors and textures. When shipped, expect to yield four fist-sized salads per box ($9-$14) depending on the variety; not each green would be great for salad. It’s a matter of what appeals to your taste buds. Buckwheat lettuce is our best-seller.
FBP: What makes Florida Microgreens special?
SHEMANSKI: Living, fresh greens are not only less expensive than the typical cut versions delivered in clamshells, they provide the best flavor, the longest shelf life, and the most robust, vibrant looking greens. That’s a big claim, but cut greens have a short two- to three-day shelf life after delivery before they turn limp, lose flavor, and look less appealing on the plate.
Growing the greens is like an egg in-utero, where Mother Nature provides and sustains all nutrients. Once a seed spouts and starts to grow, the nutrients are stretched. The older it gets, the thinner it gets. After 15 days, a plant has used what is in the seed and would then need replanting in a different way, like in soil.
The microgreen is that second stage of growth, 7-15 days post-sprout allowing enough time for each plant to develop vitamins and nutrients activated by our LED lights, air and water. This 8-day window is when microgreens are at their most potent nutritionally delivering intense flavor. That’s the ideal time for eating. They range in size from 1” to 3” including the stem and leaves with an the average crop-time of 10–14 days from seeding to harvest.
FBP: So if the window is 8 days, how can they stay fresh for up to a month?
SHEMANSKI: We deliver orders alive, attached to the wet hemp mat they’re grown on. Once you get the greens, put them in the refrigerator immediately. The cold air renders them dormant as if they’re frozen in time, so they’re continually at that ideal stage for eating. Simply cut the amount you want and leave the rest in the refrigerator. Because the plant is alive, it will last longer and retain its flavor, viability, and freshness because all the processing and handling time is removed.
FBP: It always irks me that our Farmers Market vendors use so many plastic bags for customers. One of the first things I noticed was you use recyclable eco-friendly hemp mats and food-friendly trays to grow and transport your wares.
SHEMANSKI: Everything we do is green from start to finish; we use our local water, purifying it with a five-level filtration system using vinegar to pH balance it for optimal greens growth. Ours are grown vertically, hydroponically and aeroponically (in soil). Trays are layered on shelves and the water sprinkles downward, which uses less water than traditional farming.
Check out Florida Microgreens on YouTube too. They currently deliver in Lee and Collier Counties, from Fort Myers down to Marco Island. If you live near Bonita Springs, she teams up with the Purple Spoon‘s Christina San Filipo every Wednesday from 3-6pm selling a range of locally grown organic products. If you’ve read Dana’s Healthy Smoothie post, definitely consider adding a handful to your morning breakfast. And if you need even more inspo, Rachel also posts microgreen recipes from SWFL’s top chefs.