Imagine consuming foods packing 4-40 times the nutrition of fully-grown vegetables.
Sure, that’s hard to fathom when used to consuming simple greens. But now, there’s a new trend that’s become increasingly popular, sweeping across the Chicagoland area and the country. They’re called Microgreens, which are the shoots of vegetables or herbs such as arugula, Swiss chard, mustard (and many more) that have been picked just after the first leaves’ initial development. And one local farmer has made it his mission to bring more than 50 varieties of microgreens into every local farmer’s market, eventually bringing him to Sunset Foods.
“As an example of how dense the nutrition is, a small handful of microgreens contains the same nutrition as a pound and a half of fully grown broccoli.,” says Elliot Hirsch, CEO and co-founder of Lake Forest Farms alongside wife Michelle. A native of Lake Forest, it’s only natural that Hirsch has begun offering his line of microgreens at Sunset. The store is the first local grocery to offer this product. These microgreens are about as local as possible, tying into Sunset’s overall mantra on offering hyper-local products that land in stores within hours of being ready to consume. And there’s a fascinating backstory as to how these microgreens arrived at Sunset in the first place.
"I met Eliot at a local farmer's market and after watching how his customers responded to him and his product, I knew we needed to offer his microgreens in our store," says Marketing VP Thaddeus Tazioli. "I am a lifelong microgreens fan and these are the freshest, most delicious that I have ever tried. I personally love Radish and Sunflower."
Working all day tending to the growing microgreens in his personal greenhouse with fluorescent and LED lights, Hirsch often reflects on just how much more nutritious microgreens are compared with other foods thought to be the healthiest – like any type of greenery. In his home, microgreens have played an especially influential role in the positive development of his children.
“Our boys 4 and 2 years old got hooked on it,” says Hirsch about how the youngsters randomly put a handful of microgreens on their PB&J sandwiches, never looking back. “Now it’s a thing; getting them to eat greens turned things around. They add them to everything, eat them straight, and also have turned all their playmates on to them as well.”
When asked how Hirsch initially became involved in the microgreen industry, he cited his newborn children as primary inspiration in addition to him wanting to pursue a lifelong passion. In his past professional life, Hirsch founded and ran a venture-funded advertising technology company during which he developed a personal interest in agriculture and would grow microgreens and other veggies privately.
Stemming from that knowledge base, Hirsch developed a microgreens growing technique. Using a 10-day old broccoli seed planted in ground up coconut husk (also known as “coco coir”), Hirsch used the soil as a renewable resource that would allow for the freshest microgreens to flourish. These microgreens have four to 40 times more nutrition in them than full-grown plants, Hirsch says.
The fact that these microgreens are grown local remains important given their delicacy, among other traits.
“It’s unique in [Sunset Foods] because we sell them live in a container,” says Hirsch of how customers take home microgreens. “When microgreens are cooled, they stay positive; when home, they’re live in the soil. Customers can take them home and put them directly in their refrigerators, as the greens still live in the pots they come in. This keeps them fresh for up to a month, and customers can simply snip off the portions the want as they go.”
Sunset Foods sells microgreens in their natural state rather than pre-cut, which Hirsch says ensures better quality for the greens and more enjoyment for consumers. Moreover, the Sunset Foods family respects Hirsch’s microgreens business due to quality and the fact that the items have local roots, according to Hirsch. Lake Forest Farms believes in healthy, local goods, and knowing exactly where your food comes from. The founders share that belief with customers who sincerely value the direct relationship had with them and the overall community.
“Sunset Foods is really receptive to local,” says Hirsch of his experiences in working with the like-minded family-owned gourmet grocery store chain.
Try Lake Forest Farms’ microgreens, available now in the produce department of the Lake Forest Sunset Foods.