From exquisite MicroGreens and perfectly formed Tiny Veggies™ (think bonsai-style carrots, turnips, radishes, beets, parsnips, leeks, and onions), to Edible Flowers in every conceivable color, the demand from chefs for these unique flavor ingredients has made the San Marcos-based Fresh Origins is a giant among Microgreen growers. Founded by David Sasuga in the mid-nineties, today Fresh Origins is the number one source of MicroGreens and Edible Flowers to top restaurants and resorts across the country.
Along with David and his wife Julie, the family-run operation involves daughter, Kelly who assists in marketing and as Corporate Chef; Kelly’s mother Norma St. Amant, VP Operations, and David’s brother, Victor, the Head Grower. Each day, the company ships its mini produce across the US: with plants harvested one morning and on a plate from New York to New Orleans the next evening.
While “locally grown” is still a big restaurant buzzword, when it comes to Microgreens David says, “The best chefs are the ones who pay attention to detail”. “As a nationwide supplier of Microgreens and Edible Flowers when it comes to these items, there are a few chefs who put “locally grown” above quality, flavor, selection, and food safety. While some of these chefs attempt to staunchly adhere to only using local produce despite the growing limitations, many of them are “local-washing” in that they claim to use only local, but in reality much of their produce is from elsewhere.
“We were once a small struggling local farm, but with 20 years of hard work and some good luck, we’ve been able to grow and improve our product quality, and our quality of life. There are so many small local farms that can barely survive, and then if they succeed and do well, the locavores resent them for being able to ship outside of their local area. I think it is cruel to want to keep farmers small and struggling, having to work 12-hour days 7 days a week. That is not sustainable.”
At Fresh Origins, David has been able to get the message out to chefs that his Microgreens are often better than what’s available locally in other parts of the country. “In the case of Microgreens, the quality of what we grow in the ideal conditions of San Diego is superior to locally grown, in other parts of the country.” Microgreens grown in less than ideal conditions will have stringy, elongated stems, which is indicative of them being grown improperly and in the wrong environment. David says there is very little flavor or nutrition in the stems, adding that these types of Microgreens also tend to have a very short shelf life. “If our Microgreens ever grow like this, we throw them out before they go to the packinghouse.”
Chefs Are A Driving Force For Micro Greens
From chef creativity and suggestions – many search for specific ingredients to top off a dish, add color, texture or flavor to desserts and even cocktails – coupled with company’s own experimentation, Fresh Origins boasts an extensive product list of over 400 Greens and Edible Flowers, most available year round. Some of their unique and original introductions include Petite Amaranth Carnival Mix™, Micro Cucumber™, Petite Pumpkin Green™, Petite Basil Allspice™, Micro Tangerine Lace™, Gold Haricot Shoots™, Nature Straws™, Micro Celery Feather Leaf™, Micro Absinthe Mix™, and more. While their innovative Herb Crystals® and Flower Crystals® are gaining in popularity with chefs, mixologists and chocolatiers.
Micro Basil Nutmeg™: Appealing bright green leaves that release a unique fragrance. Wonderful flavor of nutmeg, reminiscent of the holidays, add this sweet spice to pasta, stews, desserts, and hors d’oeuvres.
Micro Hibiscus Leaf™: Stunning colors of pink, red and maroon with variegated leaves. Almost like eating sour candy, the flavor is amazingly tangy with a succulent, juicy texture. Makes a wonderful garnish for seafood, adding tartness to salads and sandwiches, or as a beautiful bed for veggies, fruit salads, and cheese plates.
Micro Mustard Dijon™: An attractive microgreen with light green leaves and a snappy personality. Tastes like spicy Mustard Dijon! Adds a spicy bite to meats, poultry, and seafood.
Petite Red Watercress™: Small lobed leaves resemble the larger variety of cress. Dark maroon to purple in color, these leaves are deeply veined and have a tender texture. Offers a superior pepper flavor with mild mustard-like notes.
Micro Carrot Fern Leaf™: Frilly and fluffy, tiny fern-like green leaves. Incredibly intense, fresh carroty taste; this beautiful microgreen has huge flavor! The texture, great flavor, and delicate appearance make it an ideal addition for most any dish.
With an ideal growing climate in Southern California producing robust, healthy, highly flavored and long lasting MicroGreens, at Fresh Origins all plants are naturally grown without artificial lighting and hand harvested daily to order, at the peak of freshness. Utilizing special screening to exclude pests from their greenhouses, sticky tape insect traps are used to minimize the need for spraying. Whenever spraying is necessary, safer materials such as garlic, clove, and rosemary oils are employed. Over 120,000 trays of greens are carefully hand-watered every day to conserve water, while an intricate drainage system captures excess water, including rainwater. The 24-acre site also houses a three-acre bird and wildlife preserve with dozens of species of native flora and fauna.