Thierry Spagnou’s Microfoods

Image above: Pea microgreens

According to Speciality Food magazine the ‘six food trends to stock for summer 2021’ are: picnic ready snacks, quality meat, new vegetarian and vegan foods, healthy summer foods, adventurous breakfasts and food with eco credentials.

As a trade magazine they have a pretty good eye to what’s selling. Thierry Spagnou’s Microfoods are right on trend, it would appear, as they tick five of those six boxes.

He grows them in his home at Strand on the Green and sells them at Chiswick Flower Market – he will be there on Sunday 4 July, so his journey to market is a little over a mile (eco credentials – tick). But what are ‘Microfoods’ exactly?

Dubbed ‘the new superfood’, they are the seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs (vegetarian and vegan – tick, tick). They are full of vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals with 40 times more nutrients than their matured counterparts. How does he know this? He points me to various scientific research and it is a claim that’s easy to test. It also makes sense that young plants hold a lot of their nutritious value from the start and add bulk as they grow.

Image above: trays of seedlings in Thierry’s extension

What do you do with them?

‘Microgreens are full of flavour’ he says, ‘and can be used in salads, soups, sandwich toppings, stir-fries, juices, smoothies and much more’ (picnic ready snacks and adventurous breakfasts – tick, tick). He sells them as little boxes of fresh greens, but also dried and powdered, to add to tea or a smoothie.

I tried the taste test when I went to meet Thierry. He calls his growing area the ‘garage’ but it’s really an extension to the house. It’s never seen a car, I’m sure, and is way cleaner and tidier than any garage I’ve ever seen.

His kind of growing is described as ‘vertical farming’. They do it in America in in huge storage containers in the desert. The inside temperature, humidity and light is totally controlled. Thierry has 30 trays of plants in three racks at a temperature of 21 – 28 degrees (17 – 18 degrees at night) and a humidity of 50%.

He has Coriander, Amaranth, Sunflower, Mustard, Kale, Broccoli, Radishes and Peas and healthier looking plants you’ve never seen. They do taste good. Unlike a lot of shop bought salad stuff, they have strong, distinctive flavours. The Sunflower seedlings tasted a bit like rocket, Kale was a milder flavour, Broccoli tastes just like the grown up version, the radish seedlings are really strong and peppery, and the peas are sweet.

Image above: Thierry Spangou

Thierry’s organisaton is impressive. Partnership manager for Air France and KLM, he’s been with Air France for 27 years, but before that he had his own restaurant in Soho. Now looking at the next phase of his life, over the past few years he’s turned a hobby into a fledgling business, researching microgreens meticulously, setting up the gear and paying minute attention to hygiene and preserving the nutrirent content of his plants.

He uses gloves to touch them, a special razor sharp knife and ceramic scissors to cut them, so as not to oxidise the stems. The water he uses is filtered. He only uses non-GMO seeds and never uses chemicals or pesticides. His packaging is also made from renewable resources and is 100% commercially compostable.

Thierry has been bringing on his latest batch over the past couple of weeks for the July flower market. See him there, where he will be launching his new grow-your-own kit, or buy direct through his website.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Flower Market

See also: A London Floral

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