Eat Your (Micro) Greens
While watching a public television show in January 2017 that profiled a couple in Baltimore growing and selling microgreens—small edible greens grown from the seeds of vegetables and herbs—Mark Ross had a light bulb moment. “We can do that,” the Rockville resident told his wife, Debbie. He contacted the Baltimore couple, who shared information about the business and sold Ross the necessary supplies to set up a Montgomery County-approved hydroponic farming operation on his own. And so Metro Microgreens was born that February, in a 250-square-foot room formerly used as an office in the Rosses’ house in the Willows of Potomac. Growing the microgreens vertically, that is on racks with 11 or 12 shelves of produce from floor to ceiling, maximizes production in limited space.
This is a side enterprise for Mark, who sells promotional materials (pens, signage, T-shirts) to corporations. Farming has been important to him since childhood, when his father turned him on to it. Ten years ago, he created a program at Stone Mill Elementary School in North Potomac where 160 students a year now tend a garden weekly and learn every aspect of organic farming, including irrigation, germination, maintenance and harvesting.
Microgreens are basically plant seedlings. They take only 10 to 14 days to grow under LED lights and are concentrated in flavor, so they add a potent boost as a garnish or as an ingredient in sandwiches and salads. Metro Microgreens produces between 15 and 20 varieties a week, among them cilantro, broccoli, leeks, garlic chives, pea shoots, kale, wasabi, fennel, purple radish and wheatgrass. They are grown from non-genetically modified organic seeds in ground coconut shell fiber (coconut coir), and the product is sold with the roots embedded in a small block of it, which helps refrigerated greens last for up to two weeks. The greens come in two sizes: A small clamshell container holds a pound of one variety for $6; a large container holds 4 pounds (up to four varieties) for $18.
Mark is the chief farmer; Debbie is in charge of sales and marketing. They started selling the microgreens in February 2017. Now you can buy them online and at five Montgomery County farmers markets, including Bethesda Central Farm Market (Sundays) and Potomac Village Farmers Market (Thursdays), and one in Washington, D.C. You can also find the microgreens on dishes at Barrel + Crow in Bethesda.
Metro Microgreens, metromicrogreens.com