Boston Microgreens Gets Creative With Tiny Greens

Boston Microgreens founder and co-owner Oliver Homberg tells us how experimenting with microgreens at home led to a business supplying local chefs.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Boston Microgreens

Microgreens are a great gateway to growing your own produce at home, especially if you don’t have an abundance of space, time and money. These dinky vegetable greens pack a range of nutrients and can be started in even the tiniest dwelling.

Case in point: Boston Microgreens scaled up from experimenting with growing greens in an apartment to becoming a go-to resource for local chefs searching for sustainable and seasonal ingredients.

We spoke to Boston Microgreens founder and co-owner Oliver Homberg about getting into the microgreens field and some of the creative ways chefs use their product. We also discussed the joys of purple shiso.

Getting Into Microgreens

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“I had a general interest in agriculture and planting,” says Homberg when asked about how his interest in microgreens was piqued.

“We had a small garden in our apartment and we stumbled upon a YouTube video that promised you could grow $100,000 worth of microgreens in your apartment in a year. It may have sounded a little presumptuous, but that’s where the idea came from.”

Learn how to add microgreens to your garden lineup.

The Roots of a Microgreens Business

After initially setting up with “a couple of racks and soil and trays and seeds,” Homberg began taking microgreens to local restaurants. The venues, in turn, spread news of the produce via word of mouth.

“Before you knew it, we had weekly orders and it started to grow into something a bit more substantial,” recalls Homberg.

Satisfying a Chef’s Appetite

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When it comes to pitching microgreens to chefs, Homberg says “it’s always a challenge between growing what you’re good at and growing what the chef’s want.”

He adds that the home market usually plumps for pea shoots, sunflower, radish and brocoli microgreens. But delivering to food industry professionals “gets a little more intricate, so you’re growing fine herbs and nasturtiums and shiso.”

Meet the microgreens advocates growing in a 20-foot trailer.

Behold the Purple Shiso

Many microgreens pack a punchy taste and pleasing crunch, especially those that veer toward the peppery side of the spectrum. Homberg says the purple shiso is the most distinctive variety his company grows.

“It’s a Japanese herb in the mint family, and it has a very complex flavor profile,” he explains. “It has anise, and it has cumin. It has floral, berry and a bit of mint and basil. So it’s all over the map.”

How to Use Microgreens

“People use microgreens a lot as garnishes,” explains Homberg. “But people also use them as ingredients and really include them as an element of the dish.” He adds that he especially enjoys seeing chefs “mixing different microgreens together and really combining the flavors and the aromas and the appearances to create something special.”

How to Grow Your Own Microgreens

Homberg is enthusiastic about the idea of people trying their hands at growing microgreens at home. “It’s really easy. It’s really cheap. And it’s really quick,” he says. “It’s fun to watch it [grow]. And it’s really healthy.”

He also adds you’ll want to “keep your area well ventilated and have light.” You should also make sure to “stomp [the microgreens] down and cover the seeds during germination. Just give it a try, really. That’s all you need to do!”

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