This season I’ll be joining forces with local urban farmers, Green City Growers. Each month, Green City Growers will feature a new fruit or vegetable on their site, along with tips for growing and caring for it. I’ll bring that same fruit or vegetable into my kitchen and show you how to turn it into something delicious!
In the spring of 2013, I started a garden in the front yard of Ben’s and my home in Liberty Corner, New Jersey. Our first crops of the season were peas, radishes, rainbow chard and beets.
Within a week or two, our radishes, chard and beets stood in small clusters with tender, tiny leaves. I learned that they needed to be thinned out in order to allow enough room and nutrients to produce fully-grown vegetables.
As I plucked away, I noticed how the plants all looked like baby versions of themselves. The radishes had pink and white ends—the chard, pink and yellow—and the beets, deep fuscia.
I didn’t want these adorable greens (and all of our hard work) to go to waste, so I saved them all. We ate them on their own and in salads and sandwiches, amazed that the baby radishes really tasted like radishes, and the baby chard and beets really tasted like chard and beets. We were growing microgreens without even knowing it—and they were delicious.
Three years later I was standing on the roof of a Whole Foods, where Green City Growers‘ farmers, Kate and Laura, have been growing and tending an urban farm. I watched Kate thin the radishes as she explained the double life of microgreens.
The baby radishes on top of this Whole Foods are intended to become fully-grown radishes. The thinnings are a free and edible bypoduct—the same way they were when I harvested them from my garden in New Jersey.
The Specialty Crop
If I were to buy microgreens at a restaurant or grocery store, there’s almost no chance I’d be eating thinnings (otherwise, imagine how many radishes or beets a farmer would have to thin).
Instead, farmers have developed growing practices which treat microgreens as the end product for their radishes, beets, and other greens. This usually requires a lot of time and labor, which is why in their other life, microgreens have become an expensive specialty crop.
After Kate explained these differences to me, she handed me a pint-sized plastic tub with enough radish thinnings for a large salad. I was in the mood for something flavorful and hearty, so I blended up a creamy and punchy green goddess dressing to serve with them.
The dressing (though not traditional) gets the majority of its flavor from parsley and scallions. It’s blended with a mix of sour cream, buttermilk and mayonnaise for creaminess, tang and richness.
A little bit of garlic and lemon juice gets blended in, as well, for added depth and tartness.
Since the dressing and radish thinnings are bold and bright, I put them together with lentils and boiled golden beets for a little earthiness and sweetness. I also threw in a couple of parsley leaves.
Between its different colors and textures, my salad fed my eyes and my hunger as much as it did my preoccupation with no-waste cooking. It brought me right back to my garden in New Jersey, where I almost missed out on one of the most fresh (and free) ingredients for my spring salad bowl.
This salad combines peppery spring radish thinnings with earthy lentils, sweet golden beets, and a tangy green goddess dressing to tie them all together. The untraditional dressing tastes good with just about any spring vegetable, so if you can get your hands on some microgreens, feel free to combine them with whatever you’ve got on hand!
Green Goddess & Spring Microgreens Salad
For the Dressing:
makes 1 3/4 cups
1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon (scant 1/4 cup)
1 small clove garlic, grated (about 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
For the Salad:
radish thinnings (or other microgreens)
boiled golden beets
- Blend the parsley, scallions, sour cream, mayonnaise, buttermilk, lemon juice, garlic, and salt to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
- Combine the greens, beets, lentils and parsley in a salad bowl, and top with as much dressing as you’d like.
- Store the remaining dressing in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (or more, depending on the temperature of your refrigerator).
Visit Green City Growers for more information on thinnings and microgreens.