Tips for Storing Microgreens

IMG_1607At least one time each farmers market we get the question, “So, what do we do with these?  Do they need to be refrigerated?”  The short answer is yes.  They need to stay cold after harvesting, just like the salad mix.  Beyond keeping refrigerated, there are a few more storage tips that will maximize your micro-greens shelf life.

Let’s start with the harvest day.  Whether you grow them at home, or buy one of our packages, the shelf life timer starts ticking at harvest day.   Obviously the best way to consume micro-greens is to harvest them directly to the plate and consume without having to store them.  The reality is that, lots of people are purchasing greens or harvesting lots at a time and want to get the longest shelf life as possible.  Once the greens are harvested, they should be put into a container and directly into the fridge.  We harvest in the cool of the early mornings or late evenings so the ambient temperature of the greens is on the cooler side as well.  We also wait 12-15 hours after the last watering to harvest.   The cooler temps will keep the greens crisp and the time between waterings will allow the greens to dry out enough to harvest without extra moisture.  Don’t wait too long to harvest after watering though….those little greens are very water dependent so it’s important to hit that window where the greens are as dry as possible, but still full of life and standing tall!  In order to get a great shelf life, these parts of the process are imperative.

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Next, let’s chat about containers.  We don’t like using the plastic packaging, but the truth is, it’s the best packaging that we can send our harvest out the door in.  The sturdiness of the containers will keep the greens safe from bruising.  Thats the main reason we use clamshells.  When you harvest them at home or buy in bulk, you may want to switch up those containers.   Any airtight container will work, like a glass container or even a zip lock bag if you’re not worried about bruising.  Anything that we harvest that does’t immediately go into a clamshell for sale, will go into a Rubbermade Fresh Vent Container that is specific for leafy greens.   There is a small filter on the lid that helps keep the condensation down which helps increase shelf life.  We find that these containers will keep the greens fresh almost twice as long as our plastic clamshell containers.  If you are serious about your greens, you may want to look into a specific storage like this.  We will put a link to the style containers we use at the end of this post.  With that said, there are a few things that you can do with your plastic clamshells to keep them as fresh as possible as well.

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The main thing that we want to avoid is moisture and condensation.   In order to keep condensation down, it’s important to keep a constant, cold temperature.  We advise you to keep your greens in the fridge where the temperature is most constant.  Don’t keep them by the fan blowing the cold air, and don’t leave them on the door if you tend to keep the fridge door open a long periods of time.  When the greens warm and cool, they will naturally condensate, so keeping cold and dry while avoiding freezing temperatures is a must.  One of the best places to keep them would be in one of the drawers or towards the middle of the fridge.   If you find some condensation on the lid when you open it up, don’t worry too much, just wipe it clean!  That will help add some time to your shelf life as well.

Another note to make, is don’t leave them out too long!  Grab what you want and get those greens back into the fridge!  If you’re leaving them out for a fun meal, or party, make sure they are staying chilled like the veggie tray.   If you’re storing on ice, make sure there is a barrier to keep them cool, but not freeze.  If they are in direct contact with the ice, they will freeze and turn to mush in no time!

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If you follow these steps, you will be giving yourself the best shot at a long shelf life…but let’s be honest, they shouldn’t stick around too long to go bad anyways.   And if you find yourself with lots of greens that you won’t be able to finish in time, go ahead and freeze them for an easy addition to your smoothies.  Micro-greens are just like lettuce, just a little more delicate.   If you treat them well, they will surprise you how long they will keep fresh!

 

(CLICK HERE to see the containers that we use at home for our personal use and greens storage)

Living Micro-greens by P.C.G.

IMG_0342As we come into spring, we are excited to get back outside and tidy up our gardens and back yards.   Soon the flowers will be in blossom and the humming birds will be buzzing from flower to flower.  But right now we are in-between seasons.  We have to keep our patience and not get started too early.   There is nothing worse than spending a ton of time in the garden and then the weather turns 3 weeks later as mother nature reminds you that gardening in Colorado is hard!

For the hardcore gardeners, this is the time for seed starting and getting a jump on the season indoors.  Others are making their lists and getting ready to hit up the local nursery to get their starts.  This is the perfect time to grow out some micro greens and scratch that green thumb itch!  Micro-greens grow fast and you can keep harvesting year round produce right from our countertop or kitchen table.   They don’t require lots of light so they do just fine on the countertop, but would also love to snuggle next to your garden starts as they grow.

IMG_0381We have lots of options when it comes to our living greens products.  During the summer farmers market season we have a wide variety of living greens ready to purchase and harvest.  We also take custom orders year round, and even will plant them in your own  pot if you have one in mind!  Most varieties are ready in 10-20 days so we ask for a 2 week minimum lead-time if you have a custom order that you want filled.  Our greens will come to you ready to harvest, which couldn’t be easier.   Just take a pair of scissors and trim at the base.   Some varieties like Pea Shoots, Wheat Grass and Chives you can get multiple harvests or even transplant into your own outdoor garden to grow out!

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Having a tray of micro-greens that you harvest directly into your meal is by far the freshest food that you can access…even fresher than the cooked food from your garden!  As you trim the greens you will have a full sensory experience.  If you trim the cilantro greens, your whole room will smell of fresh chopped cilantro.  The arugula smells of pepper in the air!  Trim directly into your meal and enjoy!  And enjoy the health benefits too!  When you trim and eat, there is no nutritional loss.  It’s the best way to enjoy the outstanding health benefits offered by these amazing tiny greens!

When you’re done with your greens, go ahead and compost the root mat.  It takes just a few weeks before its back to being potting soil and ready for planting again!  If you don’t have a compost setup don’t worry….just return it to us and we will compost the roots and re-use the planting container.  

Weather you’re looking to have a special center piece arrangement for your upcoming party or just want to have some fresh produce always at your fingertips, we can help!  Let us do the hard work and get your greens ready for harvesting then you can step in!

 

 

Our Recycled Kitchen Garden

Spring kicks off this week and we are excited to get our outdoor garden space in order!  The beds are thawing out and all of the snow is melted.   As soon as these temps heat up, we will be in business!  We wanted to take a moment and shine a spotlight on all of the free and recycled or repurposed materials used to create our extensive kitchen garden!

When you’re establishing a garden for your family, there are lots of great free materials out there!  With our growing homestead, our budget is light so we have to be very thrifty while expanding.  Every penny counts, and who really has extra money to throw into a garden these days?

Here are all of the free and repurposed materials that we were able to acquire and incorporate into our outdoor garden space:

  • Raised Beds – We were able to come across some old barn wood that was gifted to us by a neighbor.  We created almost 250 linear feet of 3 feet wide raised beds.   The lumber was 1″ x 12″, so it was a little flimsy for the longer beds but all in all the lumber worked great and the cost was right….free!IMG_0134
  • Curved Raised Beds – After the barn wood was gone, we had a family friend that replaced their deck, and gifted us their old Trex Decking!  We installed a curved bed around our walkway and will be adding another bed around the exterior of the dome that will be planted with pollinator attracting flowers!img_0551.jpg
  • Wood Chip Mulch – All in all we had 6 dump truck loads of wood chips delivered.  After the raised beds were in, we filled in-between with the wood mulch.  The mulch ranged from 1′ deep to almost 2′ deep which has done a wonderful job of smothering the weeds and grass that we installed the garden over!  All of your arborists in town would love to deliver their wood chips to your yard for free instead of paying any kind of dump fee.  Call around and you’ll find them for free…delivered too.IMG_2445
  • Raised Bed Soil – We are lucky when it comes to our bed filling.  We are able to compost our microgreen soil and then use that material to fill our rasised beds.  The material is awesome potting soil that needs just a little compost added to make a great mix for our outdoor garden space!IMG_2326
  • Then there are the materials, pots and equipment.  Shovels, rakes, hoes, and other gardening tools are easy to find at garage sales or by scouring craiglist.  We were gifted some large planter pots from our family.  There are always pots being given away.  Be patient and ready to pounce when free items come available.img_0691.jpg

Thats pretty much the basics for a small garden.  And all for free.  All repurposed and recycled materials.  The food that is grown is top notch too.  Now lets see what we spent money on.

  • Geodesic Dome Greenhouse – We spent way too much money on our dome.   Its a great space for our personal gardening but it was expensive.  We saved lots of money over purchasing a kit greenhouse, but it was still an expensive build for our family.   We now use it for our personal produce more than a commercial space, which works for us, but we could really use more commercial greenhouse space.  If we started our farm before building this, we would have gone with hoop houses to increase the space, but we have an amazing small space for our family!cropped-img_0130-2.jpg
  • Fence Posts and Deer Screening – 10 Wood Posts, 10 Metal T Posts and 6′ Deer Screening was purchased in order to fence in our garden space.  Under $100 and the deer no longer have access.  We were able to find the screening on the facebook marketplace for a deep discount too!  Now we have roughly 1/10th of an acre fenced in.img_2229.jpg
  • Finished Compost – We have a compost area, but just not enough space to provide enough quality compost that we add to our raised beds prior to planting.  This gives our garden all the organic materials that it will need to produce all summer long!img_0126.jpg

With a few changes, mainly the greenhouse structure, we could have a huge garden space for under a couple thousand dollars including a greenhouse space.  If you want just a simple outdoor garden space, it can be almost free!  Its fun to re-use materials and grow your own food.  Don’t let your budget control your food growing aspirations.  Even a container garden on your patio can grow some amazing produce!

Check Facebook and Craiglist along with your local classifieds ads for fun materials that could be repurposed into a garden.   Check with friends and neighbors for anything they want to get rid of.  Call your arborists in town and schedule your first delivery of wood chips.  Get a shovel and a wheel barrel and start on the sweat equity.

 

 

New Compostable Packaging!

We are upping our packaging game! IMG_0269

Unfortunately, plastics are a necessity in the convenience based world we live in today.   Our packaging has always been recyclable, as well as made from recycled materials, but we found a way to lessen our impact even further.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a photo on instagram of a farm using some plant based packaging and I started on our hunt for something better for us to use.  What I found was amazing.  Not only were there plant based options but we found ones at World Centric that were 100% plant based.  They are also 100% compostable.  And even better then that…World Centric uses third party certification to verify all of their products!

First off, World Centric is a B-Corporation, which puts them in good company like Patagonia Outdoor Apparel.  According to http://www.bcorporation.net, there are only 2,655 companies, representing 150 industries across 60 countries. Working with the USDA Biopreferred Program, they certify that their products are produced with renewable plant materials.  The Biodegradable Product Institute is a non-profit that certifies that the product will meet the USDA requirements to actually compost.  In addition to their certifications, they also are a member of 1% For the Plant which means 1% of their annual sales are donated directly to an approved environmental or sustainable non-profit organization.  They are also a Green America Certified Business which certifies that their  business is used as a platform for positive social change.  And if that isn’t enough…they also donate a large portion of their pre-tax profit to many global grass roots program.

All of this information is listed on their webpage, which I fully encourage you to check out.   They have lots of information of how to be an informed consumer and why these kinds of products are necessary.  If you’re ordering products for your business, please look for yourself.   Their list of products are endless, the prices are competitive and everything ships fast and safe!

Check them out at worldcentric.com, but more specifically, check this link out that relates directly to becoming a more informed consumer. (World Centric – Tools for Conscious Living).

When you find good companies like this one, its worth sharing about them.   We are fully impressed thus far with our experience and are thankful that there are thoughtful companies like World Centric to support our small business.

 

Building Our Farm with Compost!

We currently harvest anywhere from 50 to 80 trays of microgreens weekly. This leaves us with a lot of compostable goodies! Since we grow our Micros on a standard organic potting soil we have perfect starting materials. The crops are only grown for 10-15 days so they use up hardly any organic material. Additionally, we add organic material back in via the roots of the microgreens. This root material composts very quickly and we are left with slightly better potting soil!

From here we will take the compost and transfer it into raised planter beds that we are installing around our property. Composting is helping our operation grow organically, without large investments in our outdoor garden.

This system is working for us, but we are new to composting. I reached out to Julie, our friend and Owner of Elements Mountain Compost for a few pointers that can help get you some proper black gold. Here are three pointers to keep in mind, especially in a climate like ours here in Salida, Colorado:

  • Incorporate lots of brown materials (leaves, woodchips, dead grass, etc.)
  • Lots of surface area – smaller items will break down faster and mixing/aerating will allow bacteria to enhance decomposition.
  • Lots of moisture – compost tends to dry out in our arid climate and decomposing will stall out without sufficient water.

Over the coming years we will be changing and evolving our composting setup to meet our farm needs. Right now it’s pretty simple and meets our expansion goals. In the future, we plan on diving into worm bins for our kitchen scraps and a more elaborate composting system that will recycle the compost back into the microgreen production.

It is really satisfying to make great soil and every home should start this practice! Start slow and use yard clippings and kitchen scraps. Your houseplants and garden will thank you!

Organic is the only way!

Our house is an organic only type of household.  We only purchase conventional fruit or veggies when there are no other options, which is very infrequent these days.  It’s very important to us that we don’t consume GMOs or Pesticides.  It’s also important to consume sustainably sourced products.   We think of this as the base of our attempt to have a healthy lifestyle.  All of these beliefs are also being put into practice on our growing market garden.

Today there are many books, ideas and styles of agriculture.  We fit into the small scale side of things for sure.  We utilize vertical growing in our micro green production to maximize our year round growing space.   Our micro green soil is from a local Colorado company, Paonia Soil Company.  We also compost all of our micro green waste, which goes directly back into the farm.   This composted potting soil is currently filling our raised beds that are being constructed this summer and fall.  Our seed source is always Non-GMO and it is organic whenever possible.  Due to the shear amount of seed that we require, we always use Non-GMO and search out to purchase Organic.

All of our outdoor and greenhouse gardening uses organic processes as well.   We are following a no-dig format and because were blessed with a host of free large dimensional lumber from a friend, we are constructing wood formed raised beds.   We are then filling the new constructed raised beds with a mix of compost and top soil.   We are using the compost that is coming out of our micro green operation that is supplemented with food scrap from our home kitchen.  We will then supplement with some additional finished compost from our local garden center to make the beds nice and rich.  Next season will be our first full season of our outdoor garden space so we are excited to watch as this area of our farm grow over the years!

Overall organic is the best when you’re purchasing food and other products.  The reality is there are a few areas that lends little to no options to stay the organic line.  When we are forced with choosing a conventional product we will check out the company, insure it is non-gmo, and weigh the nutritional value that is received from that particular item.  For instance, if we want to eat a papaya every once in a while, we have to go with conventional due to our remote Colorado location.  We choose to do this every once in a while when they are in season and we do it as a treat, very sparingly.   We never choose to purchase conventional veggies like carrots, onions, broccoli or cauliflower as they are almost always available in organic form, or will be restocked shortly.

So that’s our long and short about organic in our household, but more importantly how our farm operates.  Our outgoing produce is not certified but always grown organically!

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