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McKee’s microgreens have macro benefits

Just by driving by Felicia McKee’s house, one wouldn’t know that she has a thriving gardening business.
Unlike most gardeners, McKee’s main product grows inside her house. McKee grows and sells microgreens at the Jonesborough Famers Market.
McKee began Midway Fields Microgreens three years ago after going to the Jonesborough Farmers Market as a customer.
“I would see everything that everyone would have and it would be a lot of stuff that I had in my own garden,” McKee said. “So I wanted to grow something that no one else had — something different and unique. That’s when I got the idea of the microgreens.”
A microgreen is exactly what it sounds like — a micro-version of a green plant.
These nutritious plants are arrested between the sprout stage and the full-grown plant stage. Microgreens are often confused with sprouts. Unlike the underdeveloped sprouts, which are grown in damp, warm and dark conditions and can harbor E. Coli and other bacteria, microgreens are provided with sunshine, fresh air and water.
“A lot of people have heard of sprouts, and you can go to the health food store or the salad bar and see sprouts, but sprouts are the first stage of the microgreen,” said McKee. “I actually start them out as sprouts, but then I take the sprouts and I put them in dirt and grow them. That’s what makes them okay to sell, because a lot of people don’t know that you can’t sell sprouts at a farmers market.”
Small in stature, microgreens have a lot of flavor given their size.
This product, though more popular than it was years ago, is still somewhat of an anomaly and is often confined to organic grocery stores and farmers markets.
As a result, many are unsure as to what to do with the microgreen and why they should consider it over traditional, full-grown vegetables.
However, the tiny microgreen packs a punch with respect to nutrients, containing protein, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, G and E, as well as iron, phosphorus, magnesium and chlorophyll.
“They’re better for you than spinach,” McKee said. “A lot of times people are skeptical of them at first and they don’t know what they are. They want to know why should I eat this and why can’t I just eat lettuce?”
Microgreens are grown within 10 days and harvested within 10 days and the nutrients are more concentrated.
McKee’s No. 1 product is her sunflower microgreens.
“It’s just like the sunflowers you grow in your yard. I buy the seeds online,” she said. “They are soaked overnight and then I sprout them for two to three days, and then I plant them, harvest them before 10 days.”
Some plants don’t do well as a microgreen because they’re hard to grow. “Some things like to really hold onto their seeds and they’re just so labor intensive to cut and they’re just so tiny,” McKee explained.
However, there are a number of plants that can be more easily harvested in the microgreen stage, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, radishes, dun pea, buckwheat, and, of course, the sunflower.
For those who haven’t tried microgreens, McKee encourages people to use them like any other vegetable.
“Just break one off and eat it,” she said. “Pop them in your mouth and eat them raw. The No. 1 thing that people do with them is put them in salads. The sunflower is actually substantial enough that you can make a whole salad out of it, instead of lettuce. It has 10 times more nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Pretty much anything you can do with raw lettuce and more, you can do with microgreens.”