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Microgreens – an innovative business for superfoods

The term microgreens is still not widely known, in spite of their many positive characteristics such as helping to improve heart health, contain polyphenols, can be grown year-round indoors, easy and convenient to grow and most importantly are high in nutrients, not to mention, they are tasty and always brighten and elevate your dish!

In the following blogpost, Orsi Bakonyi, a young Hungarian lady introduces us to her world of microgreens. Moreover, through this interview made by Monika Varga, YPARD Hungary Country Representative, we can learn about the story of Orsi’s own business (salatazo: https://salatazo.hu/), aimed to popularize the home growing of this superfood, even on our window sill.

Monika: You have started your own business with four kids. It is amazing! What is your professional background?

Orsi: I'm an economist and started my career as a logistics associate at a multi, then I was a tax consultant, and now, I’m working in my own business of microgreens.

Monika: When did you start your Salad webshop? Where did the idea of your business come from?

Orsi: First, it started with blogging. I've been writing on gastro topics for a long time, my ”Salad recipe” blog started in 2016, and I can say, that it was very popular from the very beginning. The topic of microgreens joined this blog in 2017. Finally, in the Fall of 2018, the idea of growing kits was developed, and I started my webshop with these complete, thematic growing kits. It aims to bring closer home-grown plants to everyday meals, even in a flat. Nowadays, I am constantly developing my product range to meet customer needs and trying to support them also with recipes to exploit the possibilities of home-grown microgreens.

Monika: How and where did you meet the area of microgreens?

Orsi: We lived in Ireland for a while, so I discovered it there, in the local markets. Later, I started experimenting with growing them, I recognized the possibilities of it and step-by-step it has become a part of our life.

Monika: It is an interesting field, but not very well known, at least here in Hungary. Would you introduce us shortly, what the term “microgreens” really means?

Orsi: The microgreens are small (2-8 cm tall) edible plant shoots, and no, not germs, as it sometimes appears erroneously in the public knowledge. They are usually vegetables (peas, cabbage, radish and many more), but we can grow them also from herbs (coriander, basil). On these young plant shoots, the first real leaves already appear, but the root is not really developed. They can be harvested by 10-12 days from sowing (in case of fast-growing varieties). The taste of the particular plant appears in a concentrated way, e.g. broccoli microgreen has intense broccoli flavor, indeed.

Monika: Besides the tasteful variety of colours and texture, what are the positive effects of eating microgreens? Why eat them?

Orsi: A few years ago, we were only able to get microgreens in restaurants, but nowadays it became widespread in Western European and overseas households, as well. Its popularity index jumped highly when the first research on nutrient content appeared in the US. Published research of Maryland University in 2010 showed that the average nutrient content of microgreens is 4-40 times higher than in the fully developed plants. These plant shoots are small but very nutritious. For example, compared to the “ adult” red cabbage, there are 69 times more vitamin K, 6 times more vitamin C and 40 times more vitamin E in the red cabbage microgreens, while they are also rich in antioxidants.

Monika: How can we utilize them in our daily meals?

Orsi: There is diversified use of microgreens, and only our imagination can limit it. Let me mention some example: mix with green salads, that guarantees to enrich also the otherwise tasteless salad; spread on top of pizza the spicy-flavored rucola microgreen specialty gives a special taste to our pizza; add to soups as a topping; use for green shakes (e.g. green peas or leaf cabbage microgreen can be excellent smoothie bases).

Monika: What kind of plants can be grown as microgreen?

Orsi: A wide variety of plants can be grown as microgreen, but not all of them are tasty. It is also important to highlight, that there are also toxic varieties. Most commonly used plants are various cabbages, radish, beetroot, onion, green peas, and sunflower. Some herbs (e.g. coriander, basil) can also be grown easily at home.

Monika: How the growing process looks like?

Orsi: It’s simple, we need good quality seeds, planting medium and enough light, of course. We spread the seeds in a planting medium (this may be peat or coconut fiber), and the plants are starting to germinate by daily spraying with water. After germination, they must be put to a bright place, where we grow them until a „two leaf” stage that usually takes 10-14 days, depending on the variety.

Monika: Does your business mainly work as a "webshop" or do you deliver also to resellers?

Orsi: I started as a webshop, but from the beginning, many people indicated that they would sell my products as a reseller. For now, bio stores, gift shops and also gardeners sell my products.

Monika: How do you see the receptivity of microgreens in Hungarian / European cuisine?

Orsi: Although I had to introduce a very new and unfamiliar concept to the public, I was surprised about my successes, because people were very open. Maybe the extra support from me (recipes, contact) makes really „usable” and „interesting” microgreens for my consumers.

Many parents with small children also buy growing kits to bring nature and healthy food closer to their children.

Monika: What were the difficulties you faced during starting this business? What inspired you to overcome these difficulties?

Orsi: Foremost I can mention the time management. It was a question of how to manage the business with 4 children. Furthermore, I was also afraid to sell something that wouldn't be of interest, but fortunately, it became an unfounded fear. However, what really inspire: the many kind messages I receive from my customers that help to overcome everyday tasks and difficulties, as well as it is a good feeling that many people are able to incorporate microgreens into everyday life.

Monika: What do you consider your biggest success?

Orsi: My greatest success is within the family. For today, my daughters cannot imagine meals without microgreens. In some form (shake, salad) it is definitely included in their diet, moreover, they are already growing their own favourites.

Monika: What is your message to the young generation about doing own business?

Orsi: I worked at a multi-company, but I always felt that I would be able to do much more. A lot of creative energy is released during the everyday doings, and despite all the difficulties, there are many various tasks that inspire me personally. So if you are looking for a diversified, exciting job in your everyday life and do not worry about the responsibility of business management, it is definitely worth to think about this way of life.

Photo credit: Orsolya Bakonyi