Local business dives into healthier micro-green world

A Medicine Hat company hopes to spearhead Alberta’s growing microverte industry.

Wild Things Microgreens, run by mother-daughter team Val and Bailey Jans, is one of the province’s premier earthen micro-green productions, which aims to put local organic greens on people’s plates and in their homes.

“In the 1980s in California there was a huge food scene – very modern cuisine,” Bailey, junior chef at Hotel Arts and apprentice to chef Quinn Staple, told News. “They started harvesting herbs, like basil, cilantro and mint, they started picking them very early so they could get them very small.

“You could garnish your plate with the tiny weed. He grew a lot from there. We use them a lot in industry. It’s very popular now.

Microgreens are widely used in fine dining, Bailey said, but she and Val encourage home cooks to incorporate them into their meals as well.

“They can be eaten raw, juiced, mixed, incorporated into a variety of cold and hot dishes – everything; smoothies, salads, sandwiches and energy bowls, ”said Val.

“They add a lot of flavor to a dish. (They) are very nutritious, ”Bailey said. “It depends on the micro-green, but on average you can get 30-40% of your vitamin C and vitamin A from a few tablespoons of them … and of course, they contain also fiber. ”

Val, Bailey, and their family have been eating microgreens for years, but have found it hard to find them fresh in and around Medicine Hat. After buying Wild Things Microgreens from a previous owner, Val and Bailey set out to restructure the business in a way that allows private consumers and restaurants to be supplied with locally grown organic produce.

“There are very few local producers,” Bailey said. “These are a few producers in British Columbia, but they are generally imported from the United States”

Bailey explained that most microgreens growers use a hydroponics process, which means the greens are grown in water.

“They have a water tank system (where) you add synthetic nutrients to get the growth. While growing in soil is just old fashioned, sowing in the ground… It might not grow as fast but it tastes better and has a better color, ”she said.

The growth cycle of soil-grown microgreens, which grow on stacked living trays, is not as fast as hydroponics, but Val says on average it only takes 14 days to harvest.

“Our whole plan is for them to be harvested and for them to be on your table in 12-24 hours,” Val said. “A lot of these others go into warehouses and they sit there for a week before they even get shipped. So you lose that nutritional benefit.

“(Microgreens) are some of the best nutrients they can get,” she said. “Broccoli for example; yes, broccoli is a healthy food, but if you can eat it in a microgreen, it is 40% higher in nutrients than regular broccoli. It’s a super food… I want to show it so that people have the benefit of eating healthy.

“We’re going to be 100% organic and 100% local,” Bailey said. “There are no pesticides… It’s a completely clean operation.

Gladys T. Hensley