From landless and jobless to supplying microgreens to restaurants in a month

Jobless and broke, with health issues, Lesedi Khutsoane from Mafikeng started looking into ways to get nutritious foods on a shoestring budget. In the process, she learnt about the amazing health benefits of microgreens, but she couldn’t really find any of these greens locally. 

So, she got some vegetable seeds, planted them in a container on the windowsill in her room, and a week later, she harvested her first “little veggies”. She then realised that there may be others hoping to find microgreens, and she started speaking to some restaurants and the Pick n Pay nearby, who instantly agreed to buy from her.

To meet the demand of her new customers, Lesedi had to move from planting seeds in trays indoors, to establishing a small grow house outdoors, which she quickly had to expand to a bigger walk-in grow house. All this, within less than 30 days from the moment she noticed the gap in the market!

When you consider the issue of food security in this global economic recession, combined with an increased need for affordable ways to get healthy foods, Lesedi’s microgreen business, which she calls NUTRIconfetti, will no doubt keep growing. 

Research shows that the microgreens market was worth US$1.3 billion in 2019 and is set to increase to US$2.2 billion by 2028. According to Lesedi, anyone can become a microgreens farmer. But what exactly are microgreens, and how can you get into it? 

Well, the word “micro” basically says it all. Microgreens are the young shoots or seedlings of any edible vegetable or herb. Unlike fully grown veggies that take week or months to grow, microgreens are harvested within seven to 10 days of being planted.

There is nothing “micro” about the health benefits of these little miracle veggies, though! Studies prove that on average microgreens have at least four to six times more nutrients than their mature counterparts, with some having even more. Micro red cabbage, for example, has six times more vitamin C and up to 40 times more vitamin E than its fully frown counterpart.

Apart from being packed with nutrients, microgreens are generally also tastier than their bigger counterparts. This is why chefs and foodies love to sprinkle handfuls of it on meals. It’s a garnish and health booster all in one, that tantalises your taste buds at the same time.

To get started, you will need some seeds, soil and containers in which to plant your seeds. Seeds that are popular for growing microgreens include mustard greens, kale, spinach, radish greens, cabbage, peas and watercress, or herbs such as basil, cilantro, mint and thyme. 

From there, simply add a splash of water and a dash of sunlight, and watch your veggies grow. Within a few days the seedling leaves will appear and within seven to 10 days, your microgreens will sprout. To harvest them, use a pair of scissors and snip them off slightly above the soil. 

Unlike fully grown vegetables, microgreens cannot regrow once harvested, so you’ll need to start over again. However, as they go from seed to harvest within a week, it is well worth it. Plus, if Lesedi could go from penniless and down and out, to a fully-fledged supplier of microgreens within a month, then so can you

Lesedi’s top tip for those who want to get into it? “Just start already,” she says. “I can promise you, everything you’ve dreamed of, is on the other side of starting.”

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