Smaller than baby greens and bigger than sprouts, microgreens are the tiny, edible greens grown from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. Harvested when they’re seven to 14 days old, their flavor is often more intense than that of mature greens and can contain up to five times more nutrients that found in the leaves of the same full-grown plants. While Westchase District Farmers Market has several vendors who sell microgreens, two new vendors have made a splash in recent months with their delicious blends.
Eureka Acres Urban Farm
A former bartender turned microgreen gardener, Joseph Stark always enjoyed growing his own food. Watching “celebrity farmers” on YouTube gave him the confidence to strike out on his own last May with Eureka Acres Urban Farms (eurekaacres.com). “My neighborhood was built on the land of the old Eureka Oil Fields,” he explained. Starting with a garden in his backyard, Stark began adapting varieties of plants and growing techniques to match the unique climate of Houston.
Stark grows seven different varieties of Asian greens, four different types of beets as well as carrots, kales, radishes, broccoli, mustard greens and Swiss chard. “Once I ran out of space in my backyard, I took out ads on Facebook, Craigslist and NextDoor, looking for people willing to donate land for gardening and offering vegetables in exchange for the space,” he said. “I got about 100 responses and I selected the ones that worked best for my needs. I now farm about 10,000 to 12,000 square feet in 94 beds on six different garden sites at nearby homes and at an elementary school.” Stark said he would ideally like to double that amount.
This winter, Houston experienced a hard freeze which hurt many of Stark’s crops, so he’s diversified to offering pickles, mustards, jams and dried herbs until warmer temperatures will allow him to bounce back with more produce. “I’m planting more varieties that can turn quickly from seed to harvest,” he said. “Also, I’m using certain beds to attract pests so that I can control them sustainably.”
Stark said he’s trying new plants he’s discovered from seed catalogs, and plans to offer eggplant, hot peppers, sweet pepper and okra in the near future. “The first year I wanted to get my core crops dialed in, before I started growing things I’d never tried,” he said. “I hope to fill the void between growing cycles with even more varieties for my customers.”
Veggies in the Burbs
From the dining room and the backyard of their Lakewood Forest home in northwest Houston, husband and wife Don McMillan and Brenda Spurlock (along with Chloe, their Schnauzer) grow 26 varieties of microgreens and seven varieties of lettuce. Since May of last year, they’ve sold at three different farmers markets as Veggies in the Burbs (veggiesintheburbs.com). “We could probably work more markets, but then we’d have to split up, and we really like spending the time together,” McMillan said.
One of the most popular products sold by Veggies in the Burbs came out of natural disaster: the couple was ready to start selling in late August when Hurricane Harvey hit, which left them with lots of unsold inventory to eat. “We found a creative way to incorporate microgreens into our favorite taco recipes,” Spurlock said. This led to them selling a pre-packaged “taco mix” blend of broccoli, red cabbage, cilantro, kale and onions, which has become a hit with customers.
Veggies in the Burbs supplies Season’s Harvest Café in Cypress and The Juicy Fix in Jersey Village with microgreens for their juices, smoothies and salads. “We’re visiting new restaurants every week and hope to make inroads with more restaurants,” McMillan said. “Chefs really seem to love the citrus and Dijon flavors our varieties add to their dishes.”
Those flavors are the result of quality ingredients at every step of the growing process, “We only use the best non-GMO seeds, the best organic soil and double-filtered water,” McMillan said. “We only sell what we ourselves would want to eat.” He said later this year, they will offer peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and jalapenos.
McMillan and Spurlock both said by the end of this year they plan to expand their growing facilities to a 10,000 to 12,000 square-foot building. “We’re just looking for the right property because we also plan to live there,” McMillan said. “We still want to keep our veggies in the suburbs.”