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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Petite Edibles Thrive in Winter

Petite Edibles Thrive in Winter

Contributed by Katy Morris

As we take refuge from the harsh February winds here in Connecticut, it’s difficult to envision what a blooming array of fresh greens in New England looks, smells, and most importantly, tastes like. But we have good news –thanks to Gilbertie’s Certified Organic Petite Edibles Herbs & Greens in Easton, CT.

Here are all the deets on this organic greenhouse grower and on what you should know about microgreens, petites and other superfoods growing indoors right now.

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Now, don’t let the name fool you. Petite Edibles boasts the single largest certified organic greenhouse system (a weather-defying 4-acre wonderland) in all of New England and grows 36 different types of greens & herbs as well as 8 unique blends, all jam-packed with massive amounts of key nutrients.

Last month, Liz connected with Sal Gilbertie, the third-generation owner of Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, so she could visit their state-of-the-art greenhouses and see for herself what could possibly be growing so naturally this time of year.

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She described stepping out of a dreary, icy mid-January day into the surprisingly warm, moist atmosphere of Sal’s greenhouses.  “The scent was distinctly earthy – a smell we naturally associate with the spring harvest and hope. What a relief to see a sea of green – all of varying heights, shapes and textures.

 And that burst of sunny orange pushing forward from the corner where edible nasturtiums are growing, that was the best!” Liz recalls.

Edible Nasturtium
Edible Nasturtium

 

Sal accompanied Liz through the indoor fields of various certified organic, hand-seeded herbs and greens, all cultivated in their own specialized, all-natural soil mix, and yes, all indoors. While Petite Edibles grow year-round both in and outside, right now they are focusing on their microgreens, which are the perfect contenders for greenhouse growing.

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Microgreens (which as the name suggests, don’t take up a lot of room) are harvested just a couple weeks after the seeds are sown, so they  go from seed to table within days. Since they are harvested so early, they are naturally small in size but are bursting with flavor and nutrients – even more so than their mature counterparts. Consider using them as decorative garnishes, unique additions to salads, squeezed into juices and more.

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So you’ve heard of microgreens, petite flowers, baby leaves and probably more juvenile versions of greens?

So, what’s the difference?!

According to Sal, it comes down to their size which then translates into taste and level of nutrients contained.

 

sweet popcorn shoots
sweet popcorn shoots

Microgreens are roughly 1-1/2 inches, petites are about 1 ½ – 3 inches, and baby greens are roughly 3-5 inches. According to Sal, since microgreens and petites are harvested so quickly, they can have up to 70x more nutritional value than fully grown plants. “This fact makes perfect sense,” says Sal, “as all of the goodness, flavor and nutrients are coming directly from the seed.”

 

Here are just some of the fantastic greens Liz encountered on her explore through this fertile winter wonderland.

amaranth

  • The red amaranth, a leaf vegetable and grain superfood packed with carotene, protein, vitamin C and calcium, had just popped up. Try them in stews, stir-fry and soups.

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  • Next up was the red Lollo loose lettuce, which offers a crisp and slightly bitter taste and is commonly used in salad mixes. Here they are sprouting up next to their watercress neighbors.

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  • Some of the more unique kinds sprouting up were the nutty sunflower shoots, just about ready for harvesting. These guys can add a refreshing, healthful crunch to your salad, sandwich or veggie burger. Note that these are indeed “shoots” and if they were to continue growing beyond about a week, they’d sprout right into flowers. And while Sal and his team do grow edible flowers, we will have to wait for the warmer months to get our hands on them as “they take too long and too much space in our greenhouse.”

 

Why else are we so crazy about Petite Edibles?

Well, besides the obvious reason that they give us local, fresh produce when it’s freakin’ cold out and pickings are slimmer than ever at local farmers’ markets, they pride themselves on uniquely pure, natural growing methods no matter what.

 

wheatgrass
wheatgrass

“The goodness and energy in seeds is there to flourish naturally in soil, which supplies the base for growth, nutrients & flavor,” says Sal. “There are so many ‘new’ ideas out there for growing, and that is a very good thing, because we are going to need a lot more space to feed the world’s growing population.”

 

If you want to learn more from this expert, including tips on growing your own microgreens, the various kinds of herbs and greens out there (there sure are a lot!) and specialized recipes to use them in, check out Sal’s new book, “Cooking with Microgreens: The Grow-Your-Own Superfood”.

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And be sure to head on over to their website for the full listing of local restaurants and stores (60+ restaurants and 40+ markets – including Whole Food’s, Balducci’s, and many, many more) in the area that carry Petite Edibles – the list is impressive!

NOTE:

Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens (not to be confused with the site we are describing above)  in Westport, CT is home to the Westport Farmers’ Market during the winter months. The market runs every Saturday 10-2.

Click here for more info. on the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Winter hours for Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens, the garden center,  are Wednesday- Saturday 8:30 AM- 5 PM. Click here for more info. on Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

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