Somewhere between sprouts and traditional vegetables, microgreens are gaining more and more interest among consumers and are therefore a big hit with retailers across Europe and the global Horeca sector. They are miniature vegetables with an intense taste, rich aroma, and high nutritional value.
Microgreens are young, tender, edible seedlings of vegetable, herbaceous, aromatic, and wild species, which are usually harvested one to two weeks after sowing, at the cotyledonary leaf stage or with the first true leaves and at a height of 5-10 cm, depending on the species. They represent one of the latest frontiers of research and production in horticulture.
We conducted a brief discussion on the subject with Peppe Cammarata of the Sicilian company Etna Farm, a contemporary agricultural start-up that researches, produces, and distributes microgreens, the new frontier of horticulture.
"We are a sustainable, eco-friendly company that produces healthy food and sets in motion a new approach to nutrition. In collaboration with experts, we research new seeds, work on new varieties and rediscover cultivars of autochthonous origin selected and self-produced, or spontaneous horticultural species typical of the Etna area, of indigenous origin typical of the Etna region, a unique area in the world."
Microvegetables are defined as superfoods because they are rich in nutrients. On average, they contain 5 to 40 times more vitamins and carotenoids than the adult plants. They also provide a mixture of colors, flavors, and taste. A new way of cooking and an enrichment of restaurant menus and home meals.
"We intercept that slice of consumers attentive to sustainability. We offer healthy food that caters to the domestic market. Taking advantage of the benefits of the short supply chain, we use electronic greenhouse-controlled real-time micro-irrigation techniques capable of reducing water waste, with minimal soil consumption and the use of composting to recycle certified organic soil for cultivation. The varieties grown are chard, mustard, borage, radish, wild rocket, red cabbage, black cabbage, watercress, coriander, flax, peas, pak choi, Calabrese broccoli. We do not use fertilizers nor agrochemicals. Automation and technology applied to horticulture ensure a sustainable crop that is always fresh, healthy, and full of nutrients," continued Cammarata.
Through organic substrate and the use of solar energy adequate to the size of the sprout, Etna Farm identifies the perfect stage for the microgreens to mature and be harvested. This is the time of growth when the flavor and concentration of nutrients increases. Microgreens are used as the main ingredient in salads, sprinkled over soups and smoothies, or used to garnish starters and main courses. They add fragrance and intense flavor, embellish dishes with a variety of shapes, colors, and textures, and, most importantly, provide high levels of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. The reference markets of the Sicilian company are the Italian ones, while the Horeca and e-commerce represent, at the moment, the prevailing distribution channels.