With most gardens tucked in, and only a few extra hardy vegetables to bring in, with days getting shorter and November only beginning, winter can seem long and dreary when it comes to fresh local foods. I think this is why I was so thrilled after meeting Corey and Crystal Helm of The Happy Helmstead this past Friday. I had just found out that the young couple, living in Tidnish, will be providing micro greens to our community all year round.
This, I think, is very exciting. More year round local food, a promising business, youth coming back to the country side. Because Corey, who left Amherst for Ontario some years ago, came back recently to take over his grandfathers’ old house. And with him came Crystal.
Now, why micro greens I asked? Due to Corey’s high blood pressure the couple decided to adopt a plant based diet. “Micro greens are full of protein, full of nutrients,” said Crystal, “so if you are going off meat it will supplement a lot of what you would be lacking in your diet”.
“We started this not as a business, not for selling to the community, it was for us, and probably a good year of trial and error, but, the beauty of making mistakes is that you learn from it, and you move forward and grow.”
So they grew for themselves, friends and family came over, the salads were so fresh and tasty, Corey’s blood pressure got under control, people started showing interest and wanted some for their plates. “I decided one day to advertise it in the local buy and sell,” said Crystal, “and we sold out within two hours. I couldn’t believe it.” Then she got a call from Nancy Burgess of the Pugwash Farmer’s Market and that’s when the couple got serious and upped their production.
On the table the day I visited were three trays. One covered with two inches of golden shoots. Curious I asked what that was. Popcorn shoot was the reply. Yes, popcorn, and the taste is unbelievable. Like bitting into a fresh ear of corn in early august; incredibly sweet and flavourful. Next the couple offered me samples of sunflower and radish shoots. The sunflower had a lovely crunch and the radish a good kick to it. I couldn’t help thinking how much those would add to a sandwich, rolled inside sushi, or how they would add not only nutrients but beauty to any dish.
On a regular basis Crystal and Corey will grow radishes, sunflowers, broccoli and peas. Those being the most popular and with the most health benefits. But the couple has over 40 different variety of seeds and will do special orders for restaurants such as trays of basil, coriander, dill, bok choy.
“Anything that’s a vegetable can be grown as a micro green, it just depends when you harvest it “ Corey said. “That first leaf is holding all the nutrition from the seed” added Crystal, “that’s when it’s at its most optimal nutritional value for the whole plant life.”
I know you want some now, and to get that micro green goodness is easy. Send The Happy Helmstead a note, give them a call, put in your order. The couple is thinking about a winter subscription with delivery. Imagine that, fresh local nutrient packed greens all winter. November doesn’t sound so dreary anymore.
ps. there is more to these young entrepreneurs than micro greens; preserves and maple syrup, to name a few. Do. Check. Them. Out.