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The brave new world of nutraceuticals

Relax gentleman, size doesn’t matter after all. Not when we’re talking about garden herbs it doesn’t, anyway. Indeed during these interminable winter months, what the punters wants is not something big, bulky and hard to swallow but something small and perfectly formed. I am, of course, talking about micro herbs.

For the last five years now, micro herbs, also known as micro leaves or micro greens, have been the vegetable of choice of many a leading London chef. Tom Aikens is a fan, Raymond Blanc grows them by the poly tunnel, and Gordon Ramsey, appropriately enough, swears by them.

If you’ve never heard of them, micro herbs are the shoots of standard salad plants, such as celery or coriander, that are harvested as soon as they have sprouted their first tiny leaves, as opposed to when they are mature. By being nipped in the bud – or just after anyway – these plants are believed to contain more nutrition than their older counterparts – and are considerably more tasty.

We’re not talking garnish here. We’re talking the brave new world of nutraceuticals – a world in which standard herbs and spices will look about as advanced in cuisine terms as an over-sized pepper pots in a pizza restaurant. Now shoots of fennel, broccoli, chard and red cabbage represent the fresh-tasting future. Rocket, celery, rhubarb and roots are all the rage.

Throw into the equation the fact that their Muji-like size makes them easy on the eye and handy to store and it’s impossible to ignore micro greens as the latest culinary must-have.

Now is a particularly good time of year to indulge in micro leaves, too, because they can be grown indoors at a time when there is not a lot on offer to pick outside. You can of course grow your own, but you need to tread carefully as parsnip seedlings, for example, are reputed to be harmful.

So this week why not think of the bigger picture, downsize and go micro green?

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