They are a product of California, assembled during the 1980s, and have the texture of a small four-leaf clover. They have been used in fine dining restaurants around the country, have grown into prominence in the past decade, and are used to garnish dishes–from soup to salads to desserts. They are microgreens.
Microgreens came about in the late 1980s near San Fransisco, California, where today sits one of the largest booming cities in America. They were grown initially in backyards and in the gardens of restaurants, where seven different types were developed: cilantro, basil, arugala being three of them.
Before they were ever used in fine dining restaurants, they were used for personal soups and desserts, grown out of people’s backyards. Eventually, they became well-known in California fine dining restaurants, used to complement people’s dishes, including desserts, soups, salads, appetizers and more.
And fine dining they are. According to data about the restaurant industry, the upscale segment of that industry makes up approximately 10% of total U.S. restaurant sales and visits to fine dining restaurants were up 3% in the past year (meaning there were thousands, if not millions, more Americans dining in upscale restaurants).
Of course, fine dining is not inexpensive, but wealthy Americans who can afford it are spending more, especially on food away from home. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), households with incomes of $100,000 or higher are responsible for 36% of the total spending on food away from home.
Microgreens, used primarily in fine dining restaurants, have become more popular on the Internet, gaining traction and appearance on Instagram accounts of major Food Network chefs and promos. It also possibly is featured in one of the largest and most active Flickr groups, called “I Ate This<" which includes more than 300,000 photos.
“I Ate This” actually has had contributions from over 19,000 members.
Microgreens are now grown mostly in the gardens of restaurants, though there are possibly some farms that specialize in them, now that they have become more popular with the general masses. Their popularity has grown with use and Internet exposure and has led to them being placed in upscale grocery stores.
For those looking to understand the microgreen, it is possible to look at online resources that give a good description of a microgreen, the varieties, and the quality. For instance, microgreens are generally rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. A marketability scale of three and up (on the visual quality scale).
A rating of less than three makes it not a marketable product.
For those that are looking to buy microgreens at the supermarket, it’s possible to look at the bag to ascertain whether these microgreens are worth using. There is a brief overview online about the uses of microgreens but the three primary uses for microgreens are taste, nutrients, and appearance.
The taste of microgreens is generally very strong. They have stronger taste than their full-grown cousins, whether those full grown cousins are considered “petite greens” or full on greens. The strength of the taste is generally varied among species; for instance, cilantro may taste stronger than arugala.
The nutrients of microgreens tend to be much more than in a typical green. Nutritionally, they are dense, incorporating vitamins that are used to fight illnesses, infections, and general maladies. This makes them a powerful addition to meals regardless of the meal type. Using them as garnishes on food is more than just about taste.
The appearance of microgreens tends to make dishes more fancy appearing and adds a nice complement with the color of the dish, whether that dish is soup or salad or bread. Appearance is important for food components: children prefer six food colors and seven components, while adults prefer three colors and three components.
Crystallized flowers and edible flowers are distinct from microgreens in terms of species but they are all small and are dense in terms of nutrients and flavor. Take, for instance, the crystallized viola. The crystallized viola is an edible viola that has been brushed with eggs whites.
Having a shelf life of six to 12 months, the crystallized viola is full of sugar which makes it a dessert snack. In fact, the crystallized viola is used to garnish desserts, cakes, and pastries.