Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms is widely known for the rows of Mason jars she fills with vibrant L.A.-grown and pesticide-free blooms. Her own urban farm experiences -- she was shut down three years ago thanks to ham-fisted bureaucrats and shoddy municipal code -- turned her from a backyard entrepreneur into a civil advocate and leader in small urban ag, helping to craft the citywide changes needed to allow her to keep selling her flowers. She finally returned to the markets (Hollywood and Sunset Strip) earlier this year and just introduced a popular new line of edibles -- microgreens.
Eight varieties of microgreens -- wheatgrass, sunflowers, red-streaked mizuna, basil, fennel, arugula, purple radish and China Rose radish -- are crowd-sprouted in small trays, their tender stems quickly arching toward any light source. Their flavor is far from babyish. They are concentrated and punchy and completely tender, packing a wallop in a small bite. It's no wonder local restaurants like Animal and Blair's were quick to make her their source for hard-to-find, locally grown microgreens. And better still, there's no season. Kolla intends to offer them year-round.
"They're perfect for a small farm like ours," Kolla said. "They're only 21 days from sow to harvest and take up such small space."
It's that 21-day harvest turnaround that makes the year-round availability possible. Microgreens are done before they realize that it's either too cold or too hot to continue. Adult plants require more specific conditions, not to mention space and time -- two things in short supply in any small farm operation. Doubly so within city limits.
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The small trays Kolla sells will continue to sprout and grow, but it's not recommended to let them get much farther on than a week. Once the stalks start to strengthen and develop, cellulose fibers follow, and that tender crispness goes from pliable to stringy pretty quickly. They're often used as a flavorful plate decorator. But we recently tried a microgreen slaw of fennel and sunflower, lightly dressed, with thin slivers of peaches. A great way to use up the tray.
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