British couple David and Tracey Fenner grow microgreens, which are baby leaves, at the Moulin des Monts in Vayres (Haute-Vienne).
“We originally bought the mill in 2020 to start a no-dig, perma-culture, market garden but we then discovered that we needed permission to change the use of the property,” explains Tracey.
“Realising that it would take ages, we decided to make a start with microgreens.”
Dozens of varieties
They produce a wide variety: Arugula rocket, sunflower, red kohlrabi, pea shoots, broccoli raab, coriander, daikon radish, red giant mustard, mizuna red frills, crimson clover and dozens more.
“Instead of growing in a polytunnel, we turned one of the rooms in the house (it’s quite large) into a growing room,” says Tracey.
The couple were inspired by a video they found online, although they had known about microgreens for some time.
“We decided it was a good compromise while we were waiting for permission for a polytunnel, but it’s worked out really well.”
They launched the business in February 2022.
Nutritional benefits and versatility
“Our main clients are restaurant chefs. They are already familiar with microgreens, and some of them had been importing them from Holland. So they were happy to have a local producer, and now we’re working with lots of different restaurants, and are beginning to sell direct to the general public.”
She says lots of British people in the area know about microgreens, and they are gradually building awareness of their nutritional benefits and versatility.
“We supply them to a few local shops, and we run sampling sessions.”
We talk to the chefs
From planting the seeds to harvesting the leaves takes only ten days from start to finish.
They either harvest by cutting and packing the microgreens in clamshell containers which have seven days’ shelf life in a fridge, or they can supply trays of living plants, which can be used as they are needed.
“At the moment we are open on Friday afternoons for people to collect their orders, but eventually we would like to open a farm shop on the premises.
“A nice part of what we do is talking to chefs and tasting recipes they devise using microgreens as a main ingredient instead of just as a garnish.
“Who knew that chocolate would go so well with red clover?”