Tiny, delicate plants that may or may not occasionally be placed on a dish with tweezers, micro greens are the type of ingredient that is easy to mock, but like any ingredient, they can absolutely transform a dish in the hands of a capable cook. They’ve also been popping up on menus across Western New York.
Micro greens are small versions of herbs and vegetables that are grown from the same seeds as the bigger versions. Micro greens are bigger than sprouts and smaller than baby greens. Packed with more flavor and nutrients than their standard sizes, micro greens jolt awake your lizard brain like that first sip of morning coffee.
Nick Cee, the head chef at Giancarlo’s Sicilain Steakhouse in Williamsville told us he gets his micro greens from Rooted Locally, a local supplier. Cee said he uses micro green herbs like regular herbs, but they offer so much more than the standard versions. In particular, the chef told us micro greens make for great edible garnishes because of both their look and their intense flavor.
“Aesthetically, they’re beautiful,” he said. “A lot of times, you’ll see inedible garnishes being put on plates by ‘chefs of old’. More and more, that is becoming a thing of the past; like a sprig of rosemary on the plate or something that you can’t eat. Whereas, micro greens are a real functional, edible garnish.
“We’re literally cutting microgreens right before they go on the dish,” he noted. “That right there is achieving something that we can’t otherwise get: a sharper, more robust flavor. You get the true, natural flavor from each individual item, in comparison to something that lost much of its flavor in transport, or from just sitting in a cooler.”
Rooted Locally was started by Justin Brocato who said he got the business idea while working in the food industry for Rich Products. Attending industry conferences, Brocato began to notice two major trends: a push toward locally-sourced ingredients and transparency in when food is sourced. He then noticed micro greens being sourced by Rich at the time were coming from California, thousands of miles away.
“Because they are a delicate product with a short shelf life and a short-term growth cycle, I felt like it was something that we could give a try,” Brocato told us. “My wife bought me a small greenhouse for Father’s Day and we started doing trial-and-error with different seeds. After a while, we had enough to sign up for our first farmers’ market and our business was started. Now, this is our fourth year.”
In addition to Giancarlo’s, Rooted Locally also counts restaurants like Las Puertas, Marble + Rye, SZND, 800 Maple, Jazzboline and others as clients. Giancarlo’s chef Cee told us having local producers like Rooted Locally, Flat #12 Mushrooms, Plato Dale Farm, Thorpes Organic and Wheatfield Greens are essential to his restaurant and the local restaurant scene in general.
“As a chef, we have a responsibility to provide nutritious food, of course, but also sustainably and ethically produced,” he said. “That and helping out the local economy are really important to me.
“But, the biggest thing is, who wants food that is produced 2,000 miles away, that was harvested weeks ago, shipped over here and handled by many different hands? Who wants to utilize that when you can have something that is procured and brought to you the same day.”
If you’re looking to fetch some locally-grown micro greens for your kitchen at home, you can easily find Rooted Locally and other vendors at weekly farmers’ markets in Bidwell Park, Roswell Park, Kenmore and elsewhere.