At first glance, the small plastic container of Brazilian Yka leaves look like a box of butterflies. The dark-purple, triangular leaves appear to flutter when twirled by the stem like a dainty insect preparing for takeoff. The taste is surprisingly tart, with a slight tang of sweetness, reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple.
In another room, bulbs of African BlinQ Blossoms glisten as they dangle from hanging pots as if covered in a layer of frost that could shatter in a soft breeze. A tiny bite of these crystalline-coated bubbles results in a burst of briny flavor on the tongue.
Welcome to the fascinating world of Flavour Fields’ microgreens.
“We are like the Wonka factory for edible flowers and microgreens,” said Nicolas Mazard, general manager and founding partner of the Riverhead greenhouse. “Much of what we grow, and the way in which we grow it, you can’t find anywhere else.”
Although the precise origin of when microgreens became part of the culinary playbook is unknown, their use was popularized in the early 1990s by engineer-turned-farmer Michael Clark. Virginia-based chef and friend of Clark’s, Craig Hartman requested “baby greens” for a new recipe. Clark returned 21 days later with a Zip-Loc bag full of tiny green leaves for Hartman to use in a salad. When Pam Parseghian, a food writer from Nations Restaurant News, published a story about Hartman and Clark’s creation, microgreens quickly took the culinary world by storm.
Since then, microgreens have grown exponentially in popularity, with the industry projected to reach $2.2 billion in sales by 2028, according to Allied Market Research.
Traditional microgreens are barely sprouted versions of common herbs and vegetables, such as basil, broccoli, and peas. They are often found gracing the covers of high-end foodie magazines and topping elegant dishes at fine dining establishments around the globe. Yet these delicate delights, initially popularized as decorative embellishments, are overlooked by many chefs and home cooks as flamboyant, unnecessary add-ons that do little to contribute to the overall taste of a dish.
Flavour Fields is on a mission to change that perception.
The products produced by the more than 20-year-old enterprise highlight the versatility of microgreens not only as enhancements for texture and visual appeal but also feature global and exotic flavors unlike anything else grown on the North Fork.
Flavor Fields was launched in 2018 as an umbrella brand for Koppert Cress, a Dutch wholesale microgreens company that dates back to 2001. Flavour Fields specializes in the pre-cut microgreens market while Koppert Cress handles the live microgreen portion of sales.
Utilizing a 110,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Riverhead greenhouse, Mazard, and his team developed the idea to start a hub for culinary innovation, with a focus on sourcing “new and outstanding products for chefs that spark creativity in the kitchen,” according to the company’s website.
At the greenhouse, the microgreen seeds are spread across natural fibers laid out on a large rectangular bench, set atop a revolving conveyer belt. The belt brings the seeds to a glass greenhouse, where they are covered by a tarp for a few days. The seeds then germinate in open air for two to three weeks and are moved via a conveyor belt to a hyper-hygienic refrigerated section of the facility to be stored vertically before being boxed and shipped.
Throughout the year, the greenhouse is kept under carefully monitored temperature and lighting controls. Mazard utilizes a colorful spectrum of LED lighting in the wintertime when conditions are typically inhospitable for growth. The lights are hued with multiple colors, illuminating the greenhouse in shades of red, pink, and blue. Through his research, Mazard and his team at Flavour Fields found that different colors accelerate different parts of the microgreens’ growing cycle.
“We use the lights to stimulate different effects,” Mazard said. “The blue light is to create more roots, and red usually creates leafy greens. Everything is cultivated in a highly researched and socially responsible manner.”
Mazard also uses Biological Crop Protection in an ultra-hygienic and sustainable setting to ensure the highest quality of his products. In turn, Flavour Fields cultivates more than 70 different varieties of microgreens, edible leaves and flowers throughout the year.
Flavour Fields describes its edible offerings as having “unparalleled beauty and insane flavors that guests won’t soon forget.” Their curated line includes an extensive array of handpicked leaves and flowers that are unlike typical microgreens.
Flavour Fields also sells an extensive list of traditional microgreens, miniature versions of more familiar vegetables, and herbs. In shades of purple, red, and green, these microgreens cover a spectrum of flavors: from daikon radishes to mustard seed and even wasabi.
While most of the produce Flavour Fields sells cannot be purchased at the retail level, in 2019, Mazard launched a digital marketplace to allow home cooks to better utilize the unique specialty greens grown in the greenhouse.
“It’s called WeQuook,” Mazard said. “The service brings you extraordinarily fresh and local products with an emphasis on flavor and freshness. In addition to growing the world’s best microgreens and edible flowers, we source local ingredients with bold flavors.”
WeQook sells and ships an assortment of edible flowers, leaves and cut microgreens grown at Flavour Fields at wequook.com. The company also sells a collection of specialty spice blends, salts, honey and other fresh ingredients that allow home cooks to enjoy farm-to-table dining year-round.
With whimsy and a sense of wonder, Mazard’s products bring flavorful magic to the plates of both home cooks and professional chefs, turning everyday fare into five-star cuisine.