They may be tiny, but microgreens are powerhouses of nutrition, something microgardener Deanna Kotsopoulos is passionate about.
Microgreens are miniature versions of plants that are between four and 40 times more nutrient dense than the plant itself,” Deanna Kotsopoulos says. She runs Micro Market Garden from her home outside Allora, supplying restaurants and home cooks with tiny seedlings of kale, mustard, amaranth, rocket, broccoli and a host of other vegetables and herbs.
“Microgardening is so beautiful,” Deanna says. “So aesthetically pleasing and economically pleasing. It’s very old-fashioned gardening, along the lines of the Mediterranean market gardening.”
Deanna comes from a long line of market gardeners hailing from the sun-washed shores of Greece, Spain and Italy. She shares her 8.5 acre property with her eight-year old son, Alexander, and her parents, avid gardeners Ivan and Maggie Kotsopoulos. “I’ve always been growing something,” she says. “Always.”
The property is a hive of gardening activity with tidy greenhouses filled with trays of microgreens and microherbs and extensive gardens overflowing with heirloom vegetables.
“I love the unusual,” Deanna says. “The variety of cucumbers, eggplants and pumpkins that people haven’t seen in years and that taste amazing.”
She stumbled upon microgardening a couple of years ago while researching unique heirloom vegetables she could grow and sell. Deanna was astounded at the nutritional properties of the miniature plants, and intrigued by the quick turnaround from seed to sellable product. “It is constantly rotating,” she said. “It’s very intensive and you’re rotating all the time.”
She loves the varying flavours of the microgreens, from familiar peppery and herby to the unusual flavour of popcorn seedlings which are so sweet they are almost like candy for her son, Alexander. “They’re all so tasty and knock the socks off of wheat grass,” Deanna said. “You can put them in smoothies and burgers, omelettes and scrambled eggs, salads and spring rolls, meat patties and stir fries. We pretty much put them in everything.” She sprinkles them on soup, piles them on sandwiches and always tucks a handful of microgreens into Alexander’s lunchbox before he heads to school, buoyed by the knowledge that even a few sprigs will enhance his diet with vitamins, minerals, complete proteins and amino acids.
Deanna launched her Micro Market Garden business at the Sourced Markets in Warwick in July, and is thrilled with the enthusiasm she’s encountered. Launching her business was not all smooth sailing as she dealt with a mice plague that decimated her crop, high winds that flattened her original greenhouse, and unseasonable heat waves that melted the tender seedlings.
“I’ve had a baptism by fire,” Deanna said with a laugh.
But to her, the lessons she’s learned have been worth all the drama. She’s excited to expand the number of cafes, restaurants, and markets she supplies, and will soon launch a weekly delivery for local clients.
“Microgreens are such a great secret,” Deanna said, “Such small amounts can do so much good for you.”
Words and images by Krista Bjorn