One of the best parts of farmers markets is the introduction of things new to us, and even new varieties of “old things.” As we peruse the booths with produce arranged artistically, we see bags and piles of things we don’t recognize. Many of us were raised in the age of iceberg lettuce, orange carrots, red tomatoes and white potatoes. Enter the age of purple carrots, white eggplant, yellow tomatoes and pink potatoes? Oh, my! The adventure begins here!
Champion Club Farms, located in Umpqua, Ore., is creating quite a stir at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market with their microgreens. For those of us raised with plain, insipid iceberg lettuce, microgreens are brand new. By definition, microgreens, or shoots, are the first leaves or cotyledon leaves (those first little things that pop out of the ground when the seed splits and emerges) of any seed harvested before the first set of true leaves.
These microgreens contain up to 40 times more nutrients than regular salad greens! The mix varies each week but generally consists of sunflower shoots, pea shoots and radish, kale and beet sprouts. The microgreens are grown in flat trays with a specific soil mix, and then harvested, washed and bagged. Rylan Guillen, with his partner, Erika Wolfe, proprietors at Champion Club Farms, see a trend leaning healthy. Eat-on-the-go options and microgreens fill that niche perfectly.
Just a handful of these beautiful micros is a nutrient-dense salad, replacing a huge bowl of traditional greens. Served with some finely diced radish, this is some real nutrient-rich and beautiful food! Stirred into some salsa, sprinkled on top of a poached egg on toast, in an omelet or just as a snack eaten out of hand. Yum! Lettuce wraps and moo shu recipes would also be perfect ways to use microgreens.
Another passion for Rylan and Erika is cherry tomatoes. Shoppers are used to a wide variety of large tomatoes, but the little guys are often passed over, or just a single variety is offered. With over 17 varieties of these little gems coming to market in a few weeks, the colors alone will get your attention.
According to Rylan, just as with the bigger tomatoes, cherries have their own characteristics that will have you choosing favorites. They vary in color, taste and size just as the bigger tomatoes do. And what to do with them? “Eat ‘em!” says Rylan. “They’re the perfect snack.” I concur. Popping a perfect orb of tomato into your mouth, squeezing down and feeling that burst of goodness, tasting that tangy essence of tomato… yeah, just eat ‘em!
Champion Club Farms is located in Umpqua and has been working toward becoming “Certified Naturally Grown.” This means that they use all organic practices on their three-acre operation. Besides the microgreens, they offer bagged salad mixes, root vegetables, kale and baby spinach and will be offering seasonal garden produce as it comes on.
Rylan and Erika both come from customer service backgrounds, but growing for the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market suits them perfectly. Customers find them full of information and enthusiasm. Besides the Umpqua Valley farmers Market, you can find them online through Facebook and Instagram @championclubfarms to see their operation in action! Eat well, locals!