Diego Gomez, home from UVA for the summer, is helping staff his mom’s Roots & Shoots microgreens stand at Lubber Run Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe.
Paula Burdette won’t stop talking about microgreens “until they are in everyone’s fridge in the Washington metropolitan area” because of their nutritional value. Burdette started growing microgreens for her family during the pandemic last September after a friend gave her the idea. “I had to have a shelf and it just kept growing and growing. It was delicious and fun.”
In January she turned it into a business. Now Burdette grows 20 different varieties in 30 trays of vertical shelving. She explains that microgreens are vegetable seedlings that provide exceptional flavor, nutrition and texture for salads, sandwiches, and soups. “Microgreens are good for you, and these are locally grown, making for a globally conscious choice.”
When her job in special education administration dried up completely during the pandemic, she started interviewing for other jobs. “I had done lots of face-to-face consultation and evaluation in the schools which were now closed.” She said she found herself saying, “I hope I don’t get this job, but I loved being with my greens all the time.”
“It just takes a little sunlight, water, soil.” Burdette grew up in Oklahoma where “the ground didn’t give up anything. In contrast, it’s so easy here.” She says you just put a lot of seeds in the soil. Most greens like broccoli take 7-10 days to grow, but some others, like fennel, take 20 days. Burdette says that she started out with the easiest, like radishes, and then branched out to what she wanted, like nasturtium. Then she added customer requests like borage. “It tastes like cucumber.”
Her favorite is Purple Vienna Kohlrabi, “but I’m really excited about the Red Garnet Amaranth. It’s red, gorgeous. Now I have red and green and can do something for Christmas.” She says her customer favorite is pea shoots. Burdette provides recipes that use the distinctive sweet and spicy flavors of each microgreen. Her favorite recipe came from the meat farmer at Crystal City for lemon chicken with capers and nasturtium garnish.
Part of her microgreen mission is centered on kids. She has taught kids’ classes on how to grow microgreens and which parts of the plant are edible. She hopes to get back into the schools again when they reopen.
Burdette is also involved in donating microgreens weekly to local food pantries, which serve families with food insecurity at Arlington Food Assistance Center and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church. She says the scarce dollars of low-income families are often stretched on foods without high nutritional value. Burdette adds that research shows microgreens have four to six times more nutrients than mature plants.
Currently Burdette sells her microgreens at Lubber Run and Del Ray Farmers markets on Saturday, Columbia Pike on Sunday, Crystal City on Tuesday and Rosslyn on Wednesday. She also offers microgreen subscriptions with free delivery on orders of $20 and up. Containers come in single serving, double dose, triple treat or family feast.
She is hoping to team up with another local farmer to provide a package, like a salad share where you get what you want and include microgreens. “I want it to be hyper local, like Arlington, green, sustainable.”