Salad lovers will be able to access locally grown greens and microgreens, thanks to Living Leaf Growers.
Located at Westgate Public Market, co-owner Karen Dow says the company has been working on developing a commercial hydroponic system for two years under the direction of Wolf Wesle of Green Croft Gardens organic farm in Enderby.
While the produce will not be certified organic, Dow says it is as good as organic.
“It’s all done in water, no chemicals; it’s grown with just nutrients,” she says. “We are testing different types of nutrients as some are better than others.”
The produce will be grown in racks that go 24 feet high, consisting of seven rows, in four different sections. At the moment, Living Leaf is running about 25 per cent of the system but planning to be up to 50 per cent soon.
“We have eight different lettuce types that feed into a salad mix and we want to test different combinations of colours, types, textures and tastes,” she says. “We want to come up with their own best seller and we need help to do that.”
For the next two or three months while production ramps up, Living Leaf will prepare sample mixes of lettuce and invite a test group to buy a bag of salad or microgreens for $1 and provide feedback on how long it lasts in the fridge, texture and taste.
As well as lettuce and microgreens, Living Leaf is planning to grow strawberries and probably cherry tomatoes.
Microgreens are a vegetable green, harvested after sprouting as shoots, that are used as a component or ingredient to enhance the attractiveness and taste of dishes with their delicate textures and distinctive flavours.
“We have the capacity to grow 28,000 heads of lettuce a month and 700 strawberry plants and I don’t know what the numbers are, but we can grow a lot of microgreens year round,” says Dow. “Lettuce, mixed salad lettuce and strawberries will be available all year round, but the strawberries won’t be available until next spring.”
Dow says the first batch of lettuce will be harvested on Dec. 17, with lots more becoming available in January and February.
To join the test market and register for the lettuce and microgreen program, go online to www.westgatepublicmarket.com, click on the Living Leaf Growers page and fill out the registration form.
“When we have lettuce and/or microgreens available, we will notify you by email to come in and pick up your bag,” Dow says, noting people may only buy one bag at a time and will be required to fill out a questionnaire before they can buy more.