Other chefs primarily choose them for their intense colors and appearance. “It’s just this bright confettilike display of gorgeous little baby greens,” Marino says.
Susannah Walker, executive chef at Chicago’s Mod restaurant, particularly likes the baby purple kohlrabi for its striking color.
Lolla rossa microgreens also are exceptionally pretty because of their curled edges and rib that is green in the middle and red on the outside, says Carrie Jordan, new market development manager for Babé Farms Inc., a supplier of baby and specialty greens in Santa Maria, Calif.
Because of their brilliant burgundy color, bull’s blood microgreens are one of the most popular greens offered by Pride of San Juan Inc., San Juan Bautista, Calif, says Joe Feldman, vice president of sales.
The popularity of particular baby greens and microgreens varies widely depending on the region and a chef’s previous influences, says The Chef’s Garden’s Jones. A restaurant in the South might use collard green, pea or corn shoot microgreens. In another area with German influence, the chef might lean toward microcabbage.
Leffler says he likes many of the baby greens and microgreens, but right now his favorite is microcelery because it has “such a delicate perfume to it, almost like jasmine in a tea.”
Marino says microarugula is probably the most popular among his customers. “It has a great peanut flavor with a nice balance of sweet, sour, tangy and tart.” He says the intense flavor of the microarugula is complemented by its lack of the fiberlike texture of the larger plant.
ENLIVEN YOUR MENU
Think beyond salads in your baby green and microgreen offerings. These tiny greens also can spruce up appetizers, side dishes and entrees.
In one of his dishes, Stein Eriksen Lodge’s Holmquist tosses microcelery with sautéed lobster and white wine. He sandwiches this mixture between two pieces of grilled Pacific swordfish and serves it with additional microcelery on top. In another of his dishes, he combines spicy microgreens and baked warm goat cheese in a phyllo crust with vanilla apple compote.
Leffler tops seared, sliced and fanned diver scallops with a mixture of tat soi and mizuna and serves it with miso dressing and a garnish of the same greens. In another dish, he serves butter-breaded lobster with roasted foie gras and microcelery with truffle soup.