Thursday, June 16, 2011

Assuaging your sprout fears

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Each time there's a danger in the food supply of some sort, such as the current E. coli outbreak in Germany blamed on sprouts, people of course become wary of eating said product. That, in turn, impacts the sale and distribution of that product.

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Unsurprisingly, local microgreens grower and distributor Dione Sears of Naturescape Microgreens is concerned that folks will shy from her products, which are often misperceived as sprouts, though they aren't.

Sears, who was quoted in our feature on local spice distributor Dave Nigh back in December, sells her microgreens to a number of area gourmet restaurants.

So in the spirit of clarification and education (as well as a little self-promotion, clearly), Sears sent me a short letter that she wrote that addresses the sprout scare and outlines microgreens' difference.

Here it is in full:

With the recent reports of food poisoning in Europe, people are naturally concerned about food safety. Because uncooked sprouts seem to have been the source of that outbreak, many people are now hesitant to eat them.
If you enjoy eating sprouts but are concerned about food safety, you will be glad to know that there is a safer alternative for fresh young greens: microgreens.
Microgreens are not sprouts but rather baby plants which are intensely flavorful and loaded with nutrients. They may be safer than spouts because of the differences in the way they are grown and harvested.
Seeds
First a word about seeds. Seeds themselves can carry E coli and salmonella, so it is essential that seeds used for greens are screened for seed borne disease (Naturescape uses only the most carefully screened and tested seeds.).
Growing conditions
Sprouts are grown in a warm, humid environment, the kind of environment in which the E coli and salmonella pathogens thrive. Most commercial sprouts are grown in large tanks of water which tumble the seeds much like a washing machine tumbles clothes. In such conditions, if one sprout becomes contaminated, the bug may be spread to all the other sprouts in the water bath.
Microgreens: Unlike sprouts which are grown in water, microgreens are often grown in soil ( Naturescape microgreens are grown in sterile soil in a climate controlled green house.). While a water bath can spread pathogens from one sprout to another, soil can act like a filter, actually removing the source of contamination.
Harvesting
Sprouts are germinated seeds which are harvested and consumed with the whole root system.
Microgreens are baby plants much like what you would find in your garden very early in the growing season. The greens are painstaking harvested by hand and clipped away from the root system using scissors.
If you enjoy sprouts but are afraid to eat them, consider microgreens. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with their bright flavors, and confident that they are safe to enjoy.
Naturescape Farms grow microgreens in a climate controlled green house using organic methods. They purchase their seeds only from suppliers with the most stringent methods for selecting and screening seed. The seeds are grown in sterile soil in a climate controlled greenhouse. Dione Sears, David Panek and their staff then meticulously harvest the greens by hand ensuring the highest degree of quality and freshness. Naturescape Microgreens are available locally at Mountain Mammas Natural Foods and Sammys Organics.

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