Food today takes many forms, and for upper-scale restaurants, fine dining means serving not only the best ingredients in dishes, but also presenting themselves to look appealing on the plate. This can often be done with fruits and vegetables, and crystallized flowers, edible flowers for salads, edible blossoms, and more may be found on a fine diner’s plate today. True leaves are often found on these flowers, and microgreens have emerged as a popular way to include vegetables in one’s diet. Micro green varieties are grown across the United States, and for years, these plants (which have true leaves as well as stems) have become popular among those who prefer fine dining. Just what are microgreens, and how can true leaves add to their appeal?
Microgreens for the Consumer
Put simply, microgreens are a small form of edible greens that are produced from young vegetables, such as herbs or other plants such as carrots. They may be about one to 1.5 inches long, which includes their stem and true leaves. Microgreens are their own distinct category; they should not be confused with sprouts or baby plants. These plants are often popular at restaurants, and in fact, fine dining is growing in popularity across the United States. Statistics show that visits to fine dining increased about 3% over the past year, which translates to many thousands more Americans eating out at upscale restaurants, and they may find microgreens complete with true leaves on their plates. Microgreens, those with stems and true leaves, are a relatively newer dining option, appearing in restaurants for only the last 20-30 years or so, but they have demonstrated themselves to be popular among fine dining patrons, and they are known for their flavor as well as being very nutritious, making them an excellent choice for today’s fine diner.
The Science of Plants
It is clear that microgreens of many species are popular among American fine diners, but how can they be safety stored and be made as appealing as possible on the plate? Human beings are often particular about the color and the texture of the food that they eat, and researchers often work hard to find ways to make foods such as microgreens as attractive as they can be, and this can contribute to their popularity. Adults and children may have varying preferences on what their food is like. For example, researchers found out that for food presentation on a plate, children in the studies preferred six different food colors and seven different food components, and adults preferred three of each. Consumers may also want food that has a very natural appearance with only hints of human modification, and fine diners want their food to be distinct from obviously customized processed foods that may be found at fast food restaurants or grocery stores. Authenticity is often prized in fine dining, and microgreens can be a part of this. Presentation may often involve raising the plants to be their best natural state and presenting them as such, no food dye or added ingredients needed.
Being delicate natural ingredients, microgreens may need some particular care and evaluation before being served. A scale exists from 1-5 to represent microgreen quality, with plants ranked 5 being the best quality and those ranked 1 being the lowest. In general, only those ranked 3 and higher can be marketed goods, and fine dining restaurants will almost certainly only present higher-ranked microgreen ingredients to their patrons. Those ranked 1 or 2 are considered unmarketable. What is more, microgreens will be at their best when properly stored, and based on species, they may be sensitive. Microgreens and related products should be refrigerated, and a refrigerator temperature of 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit in a closer container is optimal. Basil in particular is sensitive; it may be harmed in temperatures at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and may turn brown or black if exposed to excessive cold. Restaurant staffs should act responsibly and make sure that the species of microgreens that they stock are being stored in ways that preserve the plants and do not damage them. This way, high quality microgreens of many species can find their way onto hungry patrons’ plate at any upscale restaurant.