June 12, 2014

Microgardens bring farm-to-table indoors

Microgreens can be grown anywhere.Farm-to-table practices can be challenging to adhere to in urban areas. Even with the inclusion of farmers markets, balcony gardens, local produce stands, organic restaurants and environmentally conscious grocery stores, finding locally grown veggies in the big city can be a hassle. Attending an Austin culinary arts school might allow you to grow herbs under the constant warmth of the Texas sun,  in climates with lengthy, frigid winters, those same plants might be prevented from thriving. A new indoor micro-garden might be a solution to this seasonal disparity.

The INFARM microgarden
A recent collaboration between Swedish design firm Tomorrow Machine and German gardening visionary INFARM produced an origami-inspired self-contained greenhouse. INFARM primarily builds custom hydroponics systems and indoor farm-to-table growing systems for hotels, schools, restaurants and homes. Though they are currently located in Berlin, INFARM hopes to expand to the United States. Their new microgarden will be available worldwide later this year, after the completion of their fundraising campaign.

The microgarden is formed out of reusable plastic that folds into a conic, enclosed greenhouse. The kit comes complete with the plastic greenhouse, organic seeds, and agar powder that nourishes the seeds so that they never require watering. The powder must be mixed with boiling water to create a gel that feeds the seeds and holds the seeds to the greenhouse. Within two weeks, edible sprouts grow and can be brought directly to the dinner table. There are three varieties of organic seeds currently available: peppery rucola, crunchy mustard and spicy radish. The greenhouse is sustainable, only requiring new seeds and gel if it is to be reused.

What are microgreens?
Microgreens are extremely young plants, generally less than 14 days old, with a multitude of culinary uses. Microgreens are not merely immature vegetables, instead they are the infant sprouts of plant seeds. Microgreens can be utilized to garnish meat or bring extra nutritional value to a salad, as they are remarkably rich in vitamins and nutrients. Microgreens are advantageous to the farm-to-table movement in that they take up very little space and can be planted almost anywhere. In urban communities, microgreens provide an easy way to grow an indoor garden without occupying an entire apartment balcony or bedroom.

Though purchasing microgreens from farmers markets or specialty grocers can be expensive, they are affordable, easy and convenient to grow at home, giving any aspiring chef a direct farm-to-table option.