Following on from the first instalment, we've decided to give an update on how our micro-greens (micros) are getting along and to share a few things we might do differently when we up-scale things in attempt to make it viable for our planned Chef's Residency this Summer (easter egg alert)...
We started planting back in April of this year and since then things have been coming along nicely for our little selection of micros. Sadly, the sunny spring that we had been hoping for in London (seriously, it started out beautifully) didn't quite come to fruition. The cool, blustery nights have not really served us as well as we might have hoped however, despite this we have actually managed to make use of some of the hardier micro-greens and have re-potted ALL of our tomato plants!
Growing in a plastic greenhouse on an outdoor shelf in Islington has meant that we've had to adapt our methods slightly. The outdoor shelf that I speak of only receives light from one side of the building (in the morning), so in order to maximise their intake, our little plants have to be moved from one side of the building to the other to improve their their UV intake. Yes, this means we don't have any cool growing lights or heating supplies but remember- this is a test to see how viable the process can be for a restaurant space (which we have lofty ambitions for!). We have had a good number of grey evenings where I haven't given the plants any movement and there were even a few very chilly evenings when they spent the night indoors!
We have also had to re-pot our tomato plants as they were starting to outgrow their egg trays! With grand hopes of having tomatoes to fuel a hungry crowd this summer, we need to make sure that they have strong healthy roots, especially as they will have to be transplanted into the ground one more time before we finally get to enjoy their fruits. With plenty of time to go, we are hoping they'll be ready to fruit in mid to late August when we hope to serve the most delicious tomato salad around!
Finally, with little to show on their last outing, the Cucamelon seeds have germinated too, and despite knowing that they would inevitably take longer to get going, I'll be honest in saying that I'm not sure what the chances are of us getting being able to serve up some of their sour-tasting fruits. Always hopeful though, they are already pencilled in on the menu for August, so let's keep our fingers crossed that with some more sunshine and warmer weather they'll be ready for us.
After 7 weeks of growing I've come to the conclusion that getting the little guys going in a warmer environment with plenty of sunlight will see us able to successfully grow and use micros in a restaurant. And with a warm and bright summer upon us, we will be doing just that as we take our micro growing to the outdoors when we move into our space in South East London in a few weeks (easter egg!).
There are two things we'd do differently though, no matter how minor they may be! Firstly, finding a way to get more light and warmth into the micros would speed up the process and secondly, I'd definitely start the tomatoes in bigger pots....the egg-crates would work with the micros, but sadly they may have been more of a hindrance to these guys. The team at ChefSteps were right when suggesting that with just a little bit of love and effort, you can grow these little guys and make your dishes that more exciting while maintaining bragging rights about how you grew them yourself! All of your green-fingered tips are welcome? Let us know below and keep an eye out for more information about our summer plans. R.