Monday, September 16, 2013

Microgreens & edible flowers:Art on a plate.

Edible flowers(clockwise from top): Dianthus, Star flower, Calendula, Rose, Viola, scented Geranium, Rosemary, Nasturtium, and Borage in centre
A quick walk around the garden and it is easy to find a selection of flowers which can be used for special occasion meals or for using day to day in a salad or vegetable dish. My tip is to use whole flowers as decoration and just petals if they are going to be eaten. Some flower flavours are quite strong. Nasturiums are hot and peppery, Star flowers taste strongly of garlic, while Borage can be coarse and bristly if you leave any stem in place. Moderation is the way to go and if you are uncertain about whether a flower is edible best avoid it , however pretty and decorative it may look. I'm thinking of the very poisonous Oleander flower as an example.
Microgreens have finally gone mainstream after years of being the exclusive preserve of fine dining chefs. A few weeks back I was reading Gardening Australia magazine in the newsagent, as you do, and noticed a small pack of Mr Fothergill's Microgreens Seed attached to the cover. I didn't have time to find out whether there was a story in the mag on them as I was given one of those 'this-is-not-a-library-mate' looks from the guy behind the counter. "Yeah OK mate I'm just a ten cents a dance nurseryman" I thought as I put the mag back.
I have to admit to being a bit sceptical about the taste of Microgreens given that they have been marketed as a newer and better version of sprouts and originate from their spiritual home of southern California. I have never been a huge fan of sprouts having eaten too many takeaway salad sandwiches crammed full of sour tasting ones of the alfalfa or mung bean variety.(Snowpea sprouts are OK) However once you try Microgreens with their clean fresh taste and crunchy texture you are hooked. If they have not been given the tag of 'superfood ' then they certainly deserve it.
Mr Fothergills have several different packs available including 'Mediterranean Flavours' of Italian Basil ,Rocket and Sunflower and 'Flavours of Western Europe' which includes Cress, Pea 'Morgan' and Red Amaranth. They also offer a tray kit so you don't need to muck around with soil to grow them in.

The kit consists of a plastic tray which sits on top of a reservoir which is filled with water. You need to place the seeds on a damp piece of tissue paper and as the seeds germinate the roots grow down through the tray into the water. The seeds need to be sprayed with a fine mist of water to keep them moist until they germinate. Now this is where I came unstuck and got it wrong. My horticultural "expertise" went out the window and I tried growing three different types of seeds at the same time, forgetting the basics about different rates and times of seed germination. So in this case the cress was up and running after a couple of days followed by the peas by which time I had already snipped off the growing cress, while it is not really warm enough yet to grow the Amaranth as it is a true summer plant.

Don't be alarmed if the tissue on which the seeds germinate turns brown. This is just stain from the tannins in the seed coat as it is cast aside when the first 'cotyledon' leaves emerge.
The tray growing kit is ideal for apartment dwellers who don't want to muck around with soil and it also has the advantage of being able to be placed directly on a meal table allowing guests to snip off the fresh leaves if they so desire. It would certainly be a real talking point.
So my microgreens education has only just begun and I hope to perfect the art of growing them over the coming months with more photos to add to this post.
The link to the Mr Fothergills web page is below.

Seeds, Vegetable Seeds, Flower Seeds and Herb Seeds

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