Microgreens are tiny, specialty produce sprouts that pack flavor, nutrients, and a bit of pizzazz into every stem. Green Girl Produce is a local hydroponic grower of microgreens, and they are changing culinary greenscape in Memphis, one plate at a time.
Green Girl Produce was founded in 2012 by Emma Self Treadwell, and she continues to be the President, CEO, and micro-wizard in the company. She saw a need for locally-produced microgreens, and she began growing “micros” in the parking lot of Sweet Grass/Next Door, with the support and encouragement from Chef Ryan Trimm (member of Across the Board Restaurant Group) where she was working at the time. She moved the operation to a corner office in the Emerge Memphis building while she perfected her system and experimented with the tiny plants. With the move inside, Green Girl became Tennessee’s first vertical indoor vertical farm. Today, the company has expanded by adding more staff and moving into a larger (and spotlessly clean) warehouse space, owned by the other members within the Across The Board restaurant group, Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp. Jennifer Payne joined her last year, and together they are working to grow the company along with microgreens. “I am the ‘how,’” Jennifer said, “and Emma is the ‘wow!’”
Farming micros is not like traditional farming: the space required, capital investment, and sow-to-harvest cycle is a fraction of fully-grown produce. The hydroponic method is another unique feature of the produce they grow. Emma created a system of racks to hold the trays where the seeds are sown, and a series of misters and LED lights provide the key ingredients required to make the seeds sprout to life.
Sowing-to-harvest is 7 to 14 days, depending on the plant. The microgreens of Green Girl’s “Mainstay” Collection are ready in 7 days, while those of the “Diva” Collection require more care, attention and growing time. Examples of “Divas” are pea tendrils, Bright Lights Chard, and sunflower, and Mainstays include red cabbage, broccoli rabe, and Red Russian Kale. Microgreens have primarily been used as an eye-popping garnish, intense flavor and unique texture, especially in fine dining restaurants, which can make using them seem intimidating. They are actually a very simple component to not only add a special aesthetic and taste, they pack a huge punch of nutrition from a small handful. “A ¼ cup of red cabbage micros have 400% more nutrients at the microgreen stage than when it is harvested as a full-grown head. The seed has most of the nutrients it needs to germinate and grow for at least a week,” Emma explained, “and as the young seedling grows, the nutrients extend throughout the plant. It’s like stretching a colored rubber band. As you stretch it out, the color starts to fade. It’s like that with the nutrients.”
Green Girl’s employees offer some simple and scrumptious ways to get more taste and nutrition by incorporating micros into every meal:
• Breakfast - Micro arugula is a very versatile green and goes great with eggs any way they come. Top your frittata with micros - the micro swiss chard and beet add complementary colors, additional sweetness, and nutrition.
• Breakfast/Lunch - Microgreens aren't just a garnish. They can hold their own as an ingredient too! Add a kick and and a crunch to a bagel sandwich with leeks, a micro variety mix, arugula, or radish.
• Lunch - Microgreens can be used to complement flavors you already love. For example, including pea tendrils and radish greens in a quinoa bowl with similar ingredients is an easy way to get more out of an already familiar dish.
• Dinner - Microgreens are vegetables and herbs. If you're looking for a way to get more flavor and nutrition on your plate, the Green Girl Produce Ensalada Morada is a mix of cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi pairs seamlessly with meat and other veggies.
• Snack - Microgreens can be sweet as well as savory. Enjoy micros on a fruity crostini with borage and dill.
As part of their recent expansion, Green Girl Produce is working on a plan to sell direct to consumers via a bi-weekly or monthly subscription. Be sure to follow them on social media, @greengirlproduce_901 on Instagram and Facebook, or visit greengirlproduce.com for updates.
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