Locally Grown Microgreens Provide Intense Flavor, Concentrated Nutrition

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Donna Mareno, owner of Microgreens from the Shore, grows the tiny greens inside under growing lights. Submitted photo.

By Carol Vaughn —

Microgreens are tasty as well as healthy, according to an Accomack County woman who recently started a business growing the organic greens.
Donna Mareno, Microgreens from the Shore’s owner, after a 40-year career in nursing decided to become a farmer of the tiny veggies.
Mareno, who said she always has liked gardening, moved to the Eastern Shore from Long Island, N. Y., two years ago and started planting several varieties of microgreens in February, after doing extensive research.
Microgreens are the immature plants of a variety of vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers — “so all the nutrition that’s needed to build the plant” is in them, Mareno said.
They provide a clean source of fresh, intensely flavored, low-calorie nutrition, according to the website, www.microgreensfromtheshore.com/
Microgreens can have from four to 40 times the nutritional value of their adult counterparts depending on variety, according to USDA studies.
“I’m blown away by the health benefits,” Mareno said.
Eaten raw and typically used in salads, wraps, soups, smoothies, and entrees, their taste ranges from nutty and sweet to mild or spicy.
Smaller than baby greens and harvested later than sprouts, microgreens are ready to harvest when they are two to three inches high, just five to 14 days after being planted.
Unlike the sprouts that were popular in the 1970s, microgreens — the stem, cotyledons, and emerging true leaves of the plant — are harvested by being cut away from the seed.
Used for garnishing salads, soups, plates, and sandwiches — “anything you want to put lettuce on,” Mareno said — microgreens are sought after by chefs for adding flavor complexity as well as visual appeal to their dishes.
“There are two appeals to them. One is they are very pretty. They have lots of different colors — chefs like them. But the taste is very robust — for example, I grow peas. They taste like peas. They are a little bit on the sweet side; they have a nice crunch,” Mareno said.
“Who would know it? A corn shoot tastes like candy…and the mustard greens taste like wasabi — you only need a little bit,” she said.

Microgreens garnish a dish, packing an added boost of flavor and nutrition. Submitted photo.

Microgreens began showing up on chefs’ menus in San Francisco, Calif., as early as the 1980s, according to a January 2014 article in the USDA AgResearch Magazine, https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2014/jan/greens
Mareno sells some of her crop to two Cape Charles restaurants.
Varieties currently grown by Microgreens from the Shore include cabbage, corn shoots, mustard greens, sunflower, arugula, daikon radish, and pea shoots. She also can grow to order.
Mareno uses coconut coir, the fibrous middle part of the coconut, as the planting medium in an indoor, vertical growing system near Onancock — the microgreens are grown on trays on a rack, with grow lights providing up to 17 hours of light a day.
“It’s like a mini greenhouse,” she said.
Her 8-year-old grandson helps her harvest the greens and do other jobs around the business.

Donna Mareno’s grandson, Ian, holds a tray of pea shoot microgreens at Mareno’s business near Onancock. Submitted photo.

Mareno is offering delivery service and also has sold the products at the Onancock virtual farmer’s market and Pearl Market near Cape Charles.
Information is at her newly launched website, https://www.microgreensfromtheshore.com or by email at Microgreensfromtheshore@gmail.com
Microgreens from the Shore is also on Facebook and Instagram.