Q. How can I purchase from Fresh Origins?
A. Our products are only available from produce/food distributors who provide them to food service venues, catering operations, and chefs. We do not sell direct to restaurants or individuals. If you are a professional chef interested in our products, please have your favorite produce distributor contact us. If you are interested in purchasing individual quantities, please click on the following sources of our products:
Q. What is a Microgreen?
A. Microgreens are a tiny form of edible greens produced from very young vegetable, herb or other plants. They range in size from 1 to 1.5 inches long, including the stem and leaves. Some Microgreens typically have the first set of partially opened or small fully opened true leaves as well. They are generally one to two weeks old when harvested.
Q. How are Microgreens used?
A. Having surprisingly intense flavors considering their small size, Microgreens are used as a flavor ingredient and accent while bringing visual enhancement for upscale cuisine. Microgreens’ delicate, fresh appearance adds beauty and dimension combined with a range of distinct flavor elements.
Q. What is the best way to store Microgreens prior to use?
A. Microgreens and related items should be kept in Refrigeration at 38-40 degrees in a closed container. Basil is very sensitive to low temperatures and may turn dark brown or black within a short time of exposure to temps 32 degrees or lower.
Q. How long can Microgreens last once they have been harvested?
A. Microgreens usually last at least 5-7 days if they are refrigerated at the right temperature. Microgreens shelf life will vary depending on a variety of things such as climate, growing method, handling, and packaging. Growing under artificial lights will result in softer growth with shorter shelf-life compared to properly grown in natural sunlight.
Q. Why don’t you offer living Microgreens?
A. Living Microgreens are offered by some growers and are said to be fresher because they are cut as needed in the kitchen. There are a few reasons why this format has not been widely utilized. This method requires more packaging in terms of either cardboard boxing and plastic trays filled with soil or other growing media. The result is a much higher cost for a very small yield with lots of wasted packaging and growing medium.
It is also more costly and is less efficient to deliver in this form, resulting in a higher carbon footprint and limited delivery range. The product may start out fresh and vibrant in the ideal growing conditions of a greenhouse, but once removed and put in a restaurant kitchen or cooler, the quality and flavor quickly declines. Outside of the greenhouse, they rapidly begin to get soft, stretched, as they lose color and flavor, though technically they are still alive, but not at all fresh.
Properly grown, fresh pre-cut Microgreens shipped in lightweight plastic containers are much less costly, use less packaging, are higher quality and save time in the kitchen.
Some living Microgreens are grown inside warehouses under unnatural artificial lights. This results in an inferior quality that is very soft, with extra long stringy stems and tiny leaves. It is not natural. This method also requires humidity control and air conditioning so when combined with industrial lighting, the electricity use is substantial. Savings of water do not come close to making up for the increased energy usage and wasted resources needed to power these urban industrial factory farms.
Q. Are your crops grown in greenhouses or outside?
A. The majority of our crops are greenhouse grown.
Q. Do greenhouses fix harsh climate issues?
A. Greenhouses help moderate weather extremes in the outdoor climate. Nevertheless, greenhouse-grown crops are significantly affected by the weather outside. Cloudy days, short winter days, extreme cold, high humidity, hot temperatures, all have a profound effect on the quality of what’s grown in a greenhouse. Climate matters!
You can use LED lights to grow pineapples in Chicago or New York, but should you? Local? It won’t be sustainable, it will cost way too much and the quality won’t compare to what is naturally grown in the tropics. The same principles apply to Microgreens; they should be grown in a mild sunny climate.
Q. Why don’t you open up a growing operation in the eastern United States? That way, you’ll be local to that area.
A. Like fine wine: Location matters! For Microgreens, growing in a less than ideal climate results in inferior quality. Harsh winter cold requires major energy use for indoor or greenhouse heating. Extremely hot summers require cooling. This should not be considered sustainable. In San Diego, the weather is mild and sunny; perfect for growing the highest quality Microgreens. The best chefs place priority on flavor and quality above which state it comes from. Fresh Origins provides a better quality product to the eastern United States than what can be grown there. There’s no reason to sacrifice quality, flavor, selection, shelf-life and food safety with locally grown when our product is better and is readily available nationwide.
Q. What about Microgreens from high-tech urban factory-style farms?
A. These new wave factory/industrial farms claim to be earth-friendly but, they are not. The quality is also very different from what is grown naturally on an actual real farm.
For example, full-sized Lettuce grown inside an urban plant factory with artificial lighting is very soft, with thin, limp, floppy, anemic leaves. They lack a firm crunchy texture. A side-by-side comparison with Lettuce grown outside on a real farm reveals a huge difference in quality, color, flavor, crispness, leaf thickness and shelf-life. Indoor factory full-sized Basil is also flimsy and weak compared to normal Basil. Additionally, the nutritional content of these products is much lower than what is grown naturally in the sun and soil.
Some of these operations are trying to produce Microgreens. Beware! This product is forced to grow in unnatural conditions. It is very stringy, mostly long stems with tiny leaves. The stems have very little flavor, shelf-life, nutrition or presentation value. A beautifully prepared plate is ruined by stringy, elongated stems that look more like sprouts than Microgreens.
Fresh Origins has been growing sustainably for 21 years using natural sunshine that is free and clean. Our Microgreens are not produced in an urban factory farm with unnatural artificial industrial lighting. The new vertical plant factory people tend to have little or no experience with farming and growing, especially Microgreens, no understanding of quality and many seem to be operating with investor or grant money. They are forcing the growth with unnatural, artificial industrial lighting, air cooling and dehumidification equipment which requires lots of electricity. They talk about using less water, but they conveniently don’t mention how their electricity use compares to normal, natural farming. Compared to real farming, they use massive amounts of electricity per crop. Their yields are also much lower due to the thinness of their leaves and stems. The cost of a Kilowatt of electricity is almost 100 times the cost of a gallon of water in California and has detrimental environmental impacts by wasting our precious resources; vertical urban factory farming is not sustainable.
Urban-type Microgreens are often already stretched and stringy the day they leave their factory. This is a very different type of Microgreen. The quality that they are shipping would be rejected by most professional chefs and is worse than what we would reject and dump every day at our farm.
There are some claims being made of long shelf life for the living urban Microgreens, but because they are poor quality, soft, stringy, long-stemmed micros with tiny leaves, and have a very low yield per container from day one, the value and shelf-life is not there.
Microgreens should have short stems, fully expanded leaves, with deep vibrant color, and honestly grown in bright natural sunshine. This simply cannot be achieved by forcing them in vertical factory farms, stacked inside an industrial building, under unnatural artificial electric lighting, with energy-intensive machinery for air cooling and dehumidification, in an urban setting.
Because we grow in natural sunshine, and fresh air, our Microgreens are short and leafy, full of flavor with great shelf-life. Fresh Origins Microgreens are pre-cut with a 100% usable yield of the highest quality Microgreens available.
Q. What unique items do Fresh Origins grow compared to other growers?
A. At Fresh Origins, we create a steady stream of original innovations. The following items have not yet been duplicated and are not available from anywhere else:
Microgreens: Micro Mustard Dijon™, Micro Carrot Fern Leaf™, Micro Celery Feather Leaf™,Micro Mint Lavender™, Micro Cucumber™, Micro Sorrel Bitter™, and Micro Hibiscus™.
Petite®Greens: Petite®Basil Nutmeg™, Petite®Basil Allspice™, Petite®Pumpkin Green™, Petite®Lavender, Petite® Watercress Pink Ice™.
A few more items Fresh Origins created and introduced to the culinary world are: Micro Intensity Mix™, Micro Mirepoix Mix™, Micro Iceplant, Micro Tangerine Lace™, Micro Wasabi, Micro Spectrum Mix™, Petite®Fava Leaf, Petite®Haricot Leaf™, Petite®Lucky Shamrock™, Petite®Amaranth Carnival Mix™, Petite®Basil Midnight™, Petite®Stevia™, FireStix™(edible flower), MicroFlowers™, and Nature Straws™ (edible straws).
Q. What growing medium do you use?
A. We grow our products in peat moss (decomposed prehistoric moss plants). It is not soil.
Q. What about organic?
A. We’d like to see more transparency and integrity in the organic farming industry and its regulation. Currently, organic farmers are certified by private companies that are being paid not only for certifying the farms, but they also get a percentage of the farm’s organic sales. The certifiers are for-profit companies. This inherent conflict of interest is troubling. There is little or no enforcement, verification or testing since this would reveal the true facts about the fraud that may be taking place and therefore, diminish the profits generated by both the farmers and certifiers. This is why organic farmers are adamantly against any form of testing.
Microgreens are not grown in soil. Peat Moss is not soil. The founders of the organic movement are adamantly against hydroponic (grown without soil) farming being called organic. Organic principals are based on nurturing the soil. There is actually a major battle going on over this within the organic leadership. Microgreens grown in trays do not nurture the soil and therefore are not really grown using organic principals and should not be called organic. Since the system is pay-to-be certified, that’s what is happening. Being organic in our view is trendy, especially for the uninformed public, but does not really look at the whole picture when growing food. We don’t need to be labeled organic just so we can sell more produce. We sell based on quality and flavor. Our approach is to consider a much wider range of issues, to grow responsibly, with efficiency, respect for our natural resources, and with naturally honest methods to produce clean, safe, consistent, high quality, specialty produce.
Q. Where do you ship to?
A. We ship nationwide and to Canada and the Caribbean using overnight delivery services.
Q. Why don’t you sell direct to restaurants?
A. We let our distributors handle the selling and delivery, allowing us to concentrate on growing and harvesting the best possible product we can. We simply do not have the kind of staff needed to directly work with restaurants. We do have distributors who can arrange direct, drop-ship deliveries from our farm to your door.
Q. Are Microgreens particularly high in nutritional value?
A. So far there is no conclusive evidence of this. It has become an urban legend that Microgreens possess high concentrations of various nutritional and beneficial compounds. As people read and parrot the misinformation, it spreads. More and more people see the claims, and the myth just continues to snowball until it is accepted as fact by most people without any question.
Numerous articles and websites claim that Microgreens are the latest nutritional miracle-food. The fact is, there have been no studies done on Microgreens to substantiate any of these claims so at this point it is all just wishful thinking; new-age mumbo jumbo. No evidence of Microgreens’ nutritional value means the numerous claims have no scientific basis. It would, of course, be to our benefit to claim that Microgreens are some kind of super-food. Most likely, Microgreens actually have a lower nutritional value than full-sized vegetables and herbs.*
As a point of reference, some sprouts (which are not Microgreens), have been said to contain particularly high concentrations of a certain chemo-protective compound, Sulforaphane Glucosinolate (SGS), however, the highest concentration of this is actually found in the seed. Since sprouts are consumed with the seed still attached, this may explain the presence of this compound in sprouts. If people feel they really want more of this compound, they should simply eat the seed to get the highest concentration. Of course, Microgreens are not sprouts. Microgreens are cut at the stem and have no roots or seed attached so there would be no reason to think this compound exists in any particularly high amount. There have not been any studies done on Microgreens to determine the presence of SGS or any other compound.
The USDA has weighed in on the situation: Although some research suggests a promising role for broccoli sprouts in promoting health, the research results do not permit definitive scientific conclusions on specific health benefits. At this time, the FDA has not reached any such conclusions or authorized any claims specifically for SGS or broccoli sprouts. There is no mention of Microgreens as they were never included in any of these studies.
Regarding the nutritional value of sprouts, the USDA has listed the nutritional value of sprouts compared to full-sized broccoli. In summary, broccoli sprouts are significantly lower in nutritional value when compared to full-sized broccoli. Of note: the sprouts were lower in protein (1.4 mg compared to 2.324 mg.), fiber, Vitamin A (561 compared to 1,082.64 IU), Riboflavin (none found in sprouts compared to .043 mg.), Vitamin B-6 (.07 compared to .112 mg.), Vitamin C (20 compared to 58.188 mg), and Iron (.22 compared to .665 mg.).
One study said to support the idea that Microgreens have more nutrition: USDA plant physiologist Dr. Gene Lester shows that younger spinach leaves generally have higher levels of vitamins C, B9 and K1, and the carotenoids (plant pigments with antioxidant action) lutein, violaxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene than more mature leaves (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, January 2010.) This study compares leaves from the same plant. In other words, he is saying that the younger leaves at the top of a full-grown spinach plant have higher levels of antioxidants than the older leaves at the bottom of the same plant. All of the leaves in this study came from large mature spinach plants and has no relevance to the nutritional value/antioxidant content of Microgreens. It does not compare leaves from older plants with leaves from younger plants.
This relates to Microgreens in that since sprouts which are the youngest form of broccoli have lower nutritional value than mature broccoli, it stands to reason that Microgreens have lower nutritional value than their full-sized counterparts as well.
Microgreens certainly have a lot of flavors considering their tiny size, however, they do have less flavor than their full-sized counterparts. The flavors definitely increase in vegetable and herb plants as they grow larger. It is logical to conclude that the nutritional value also increases as the plant matures.
People should not rely on unsubstantiated claims to make dietary decisions, nor should any company attempt to sell a product or book using these fake nutritional claims. Fresh Origins does not rely on unsubstantiated claims to sell its product.
If anyone makes the claim that Microgreens are “packed with nutrition”, don’t take their word for it, ask for the nutritional analysis to back it up. If at some point there are reliable nutritional studies done on Microgreens, and they do show high values, Fresh Origins will be very pleased to promote it.
*August 2012. Finally, the first-ever study on Microgreen’s nutrition has been carried out by researchers at the University of Maryland. The study set out to determine if Microgreens have higher nutritional value than mature greens. While the results seem promising, there are some concerns with the study. The primary issue is that they did not do the analysis of the mature versions used for the comparisons with the Microgreens. This comparison, of course, is the whole basis for making the claim that the Microgreens are more nutritious than the mature versions. Instead, they relied upon data from analysis done by others probably a very long time ago, so it is unlikely the same methods of analysis could have been done. Some of the comparisons were not correct such as comparing one type of amaranth in the micro form to a different type (and color) in the mature form. In addition, some of the items tested were not actually Microgreens, but shoots. We are hoping there might be a future study done where there is first a clear definition of what Microgreens are and that there would be nutritional analysis is done on both the Microgreen and the mature leaf in the same study using the same methods, rather than relying on outside data and variable varieties to compare. The study is a welcome step in the right direction, but only the first step in understanding the nutritional value of Microgreens.