The Smiling Faces at Abilis and Their Thriving Micro Greens Operation

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At Abilis the gardeners were all smiles on Tuesday as they went about weeding, tilling, and harvesting the day’s crop of micro greens. The greenhouse is warm year round, but the July sunshine provided warmth for the flower beds so that gardeners could wander in and out of the open doors.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.40.46 PMAs trays were rotated off the shelves and onto the cutting table, Chris Hadin, who has been running the greenhouse operation for Abilis for 2-1/2 years, gave everyone a chance to share a pair of scissors and harvest the delicate greens which are sold to restaurants in Town including Boxcar Cantina and Rebeccas.

And, reflecting the success of the operation, a couple weeks ago, Manursing Island Club in Rye, NY, started purchasing regular supplies of microgreens.

chris and doreen at abilis“Miss D,” whose real name is Doreen helped everyone as they rotated through the tasks on Tuesday morning, and, colleague, André, stopped at the greenhouse in between deliveries. Indeed the greenhouse is a hive of activity and the air is peppered with the scent of  fresh greens.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.43.26 PMJack Iovanna plucks each swiss chard sprout with care, and then trims its tiny rootball with a small pair of scissors. He tugs each sprout  from the soil as close to the root as possible, and works his way from the outer edge of the seed tray toward the middle and clearly enjoyed the task.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.40.30 PM“I’m best at cutting swiss chard,” Jack said. “I’m also good at raking soil and pulling weeds.”

“The Swiss Chard doesn’t have a lot of flavor, but it provides a lovely color,” said Hadin, who explained that in addition to being used as ingredients, the microgreens are used as garnishes by the local restaurants.

Hadin explained that the water from the tap in the greenhouse needs a slight adjustment before it hits the soil under the tiny seedlings.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.47.24 PM“I’ve been really on top with the Ph,” he said. “The water in the greenhouse is very alkaline, going up to 8.5.

So we adjust the water down to 6 and it makes a tremendous difference because acidic water helps unlock the nutrients in the soil.”

“Acidic water helps unlock the nutrients in the soil,” Hadin said as he added drops to the tap water.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.42.58 PMBeyond balancing the aklaline of the water, the challenge to watering the microgreens boils down further.

“You have to water just enough to keep the soil moist but no saturated,” Hadin said. “So, if it’s really hot, I will water in the morning and again before I leave. Everything in here has a very fine line to keep them alive, but discourage the growth of fungus.”

Beyond getting the water just precise, Hadin said the soil itself is key. “We go through a lot of soil,” he said. “We use clean new soil for the microgreens and after we harvest the greens, the soil is added to the garden,” he said gesturing to the perennial beds adjacent to the greenhouse.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.41.02 PMHadin described each tray of greens in turn, starting with the colorful tray of swiss chard. Moving onto the mixed greens, he recited the list by heart: “Arugula, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and radish,” he said. This reporter enjoyed a sample of the fresh, mixed greens and can vouch that they are flavorful and delicious.

“It’s a very intense little crop! Everything is growing very closely in the tray,” Hadin said. “Everyone is involved in the process,” he added, listing the tasks the shared tasks: Seeding, harvesting and prepping the soil. “They each have their turn.” Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.46.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.45.53 PM   Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.42.43 PMOn Wednesday morning Andre McCray, who has worked for Abilis for four years and spends much of his day making deliveries with Abilis clients, traveled with Graham Moore, 23, from Abilis to nearby Rebeccas restaurant to deliver eight tubs of fresh microgreens.

Total travel time for the greens from Abilis refrigerator to Rebeccas was less than 10 minutes.

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Andre and Graham take the freshly harvested microgreens from the Abilis fridge and prepare for their round of deliveries. Credit: Leslie Yager

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Graham, with Andre, looks satisfied at having delivered fresh microgreens to Rebeccas restaurant in Glenville. Rebeccas has been a longstanding customer of the Abilis microgreens operation. Credit: Leslie Yagr

andre and grahamThe greens were delivered inside pretty gift bags fastened with a ribbon and a receipt attached.

From Rebeccas, Andre and Graham traveled to Rye to deliver greens to Manursing Island Club.

Abilis offices, greenhouse and gift shop are located at 50 Glenville Street in Glenville. Tel. (203) 531-1880

Rebeccas is located at 265 Glenville Rd. Tel. (203) 532-9270

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