Small but punchy leafy greens from innovative new trader MiniCrops
Jamie Burrows and his wife Marie-Alexandrine Burrows run a very interesting company. Its name is Vertical Future—but Borough Market regulars will know them as MiniCrops.
“We are actually a tech company, interested in finding ways of using technology to address problems in cities,” Jamie explains. “The idea behind the MiniCrops initiative is to combine modern agriculture technology with the disused spaces found throughout any city, to bring food production into the heart of the urban environment. This reduces food miles, as well as providing fresh, local, high quality and sustainable produce to the city’s residents.”
The team’s first site is a ‘vertical farm’ in what was a disused warehouse in Deptford—a mere three and a half miles from Borough Market. MiniCrops uses specially designed trays stacked one above the other to produce micro greens and herbs, which are bathed in light specially designed to promote plant growth and health. Micro daikon radish is just one of more than 20 varieties they grow.
“Daikon is a Japanese radish with a really distinctive taste,” says Jamie. “As is the case with most microgreens we grow, these tiny leaves have the real essence of the full-grown vegetable, but the flavour does not hit you all at once. It has that initial radish taste followed peppery heat, and this lovely soft, almost grassy texture. I use it a lot in salad mixes, on canapes—anything that would benefit from that peppery kick. I have been known to sprinkle it over a plate simply to liven up a boring dish. But the nice thing about it is it’s not too intense. My daughter is four years old, and when I add some to her lunchbox she happily eats it.”
Each micro daikon radish consists of a thin stem and a few leaves at the top end. The entire thing is between two to four inches long and, when bought from MiniCrops at least, is about as fresh as you can get. “Everything is harvested on the day we send it, so depending on when they drop by the stall, Borough Market customers could be getting something that was only harvested 90 minutes before.”
This innovative grower says the best way to store the fruits of his labour is in the fridge with the lid of the punnet tightly on. “Otherwise the microgreens will oxidise more quickly, which lessens the time they will last”—though you should get at least five days out of everything they grow.
“It is a very efficient way of farming. We have about 150 square metres of growing area, and we get an output of more than a metric tonne per month,” he continues. “We also focus on minimising waste and being as energy efficient as possible, throughout the farming and distribution process.”
Finding ways to get good food to the populations of the world’s ever-expanding cities is a real challenge, which governments all over the world are working to tackle. Judging from its success in London, MiniCrops’ style of farming may well play a role in the solution—and a great-tasting solution at that.