Food expert Campbell Mickel, co-owner of the newly awarded Bib Gourmand restaurant Merienda in Edinburgh, tells us what inspired him to grow his own micro Herbs to add to Merienda’s dishes and what you can do to get started.
Micro herbs are tender immature plants, bursting with nutrients and able to be grown all year long. They are the seedlings of plants that are usually harvested when they are fully grown, they are just like any other plant but harvested usually when there are four or more leaves. The edible part of microgreen consists of stem, cotyledons and the first pair of young true leaves.
Campbell decided to grow and harvest his own micro herbs for Merienda to add beauty, flavour and freshness to any dishes. Though micro herbs can be grown in natural light, growth will be quicker on a sunny windowsill or under grow lights. Campbell uses these special grow lights to allow his micro herbs to flourish.
You can use almost any vegetable seed to grow micro herbs (some are tastier than others), but a lot of companies offer special microgreen seed mixes that are a great option for first-timers to experiment with. If you are looking to start out, Campbell recommends first growing some micro coriander as it is very easy to grow, looks amazing and compliments so many different types of dishes. All you need to start out are some heat lights, seeds, soil and water.
Once you have sourced your supplies and your herbs have started to grow, Campbell recommends harvesting every 7-10 days. To harvest, you must cut the shoots just above ground level with scissors. Many types of herb can regrow and be cut several times. Keep in mind that afterwards, the tray contents can be added to your compost heap. Micro herbs are best eaten right after harvesting, but will keep in a glass jar in the fridge for a few days.
Even though you can use micro herbs to add colour to a dish, they have a defined taste so it must compliment the meal you are cooking and serving. Campbell particularly recommends serving a micro herb if their ‘big brother’ is present in the dish, to enhance the flavour and maximise nutrients.
CAMPBELL SUGGESTS THE FOLLOWING FOUR HERBS TO GET YOU STARTED:
CORIANDER – Coriander is full of flavour. This leafy herb packs a real aromatic punch to your cooking or salads.
PEA SHOOTS – Pea Shoots have a nutty, distinct flavour and are full of vitamins A, B, C and E. They are wonderful in a salad and their tendrils look very attractive.
GARLIC CHIVES – The shoots, once cut, will add a slight garlic & onion flavour to any dish that they are added to. The flowers also add a mild onion/ garlic flavour and can be used as a garnish
MICRO RADISHES – The pleasantly peppery radish Microgreens boast a flavour similar to that of root radishes.