One of the amazing experiences I had this week was meeting Eli Herman, the perpetually smiling Field-to-Table Manager at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina on a sunny morning. Driving out one of the winding and beautiful roads on the Biltmore property, we discovered Eli on a cool, quiet, morning bent over a row of broccoli seedlings with a spade in hand. He and his assistant had a rhythm going of dig-dig-plop, dig-dig-plop, dig-dig-plop and when we pulled up, he straightened with the big stretch back that all gardeners recognize as relief from our passion.
Eli has worked on the Biltmore Estate for most of his life, and his father before him, focused on tending and growing hyper-local foods for the visitors that come to the property. Broccoli was being planted that day (right), but many other vegetables would be shared out among the various kitchens throughout the summer.
One delicious crop Eli grows is micro-greens – no bare hand is permitted to touch the plants as they go fresh from the nursery directly to the kitchens without being soaked in water. Differing from sprouts, which are consumed root and all, micro greens are the top growth of various leafy plants which are immature. Common micro green plants include herbs, salad greens, beets, broccoli, radish, chia, and sunflower. Eli and his team grow hundreds of pounds of micro greens annually – you can grow them at home as well.
How to Grow Micro Greens
- Order your favorite plant seeds for micro greens
- In a shallow container with drainage, place two inches of moistened soil
- Follow package planting directions to plant the seeds in soil
- Place in a sunny window and keep lightly moist but not soaking wet (I prefer a gentle squirt bottle to mist)
- Once leaves develop, harvest with scissors in two to three weeks
After a very full day of touring and walking the gardens at the Biltmore Estate, I sat down at a bar on property called the “Village Social” and was presented with the most delicious red snapper and Swiss chard with micro greens dancing across the top of the dish. What a fantastic end to a perfect day meeting Eli in the fields. By seeing his micro greens on my food after I saw them in his nursery I felt that, if only for a day, I was a part of the Biltmore family.