The garden is long gone but fresh, homegrown greens don’t have to be. David Henson, inventor and entrepreneur from Northfield, has developed a grow-your-own microgreens kit—through the brand name Product of Nature—that allows you to cultivate seedling plants inside your home (or studio apartment), even in the depths of winter.
Like those found in stores or restaurants, the microgreens grown using Product of Nature kits are slightly more mature than sprouts but are still only one to three inches in height when harvested. Nutrient dense, these tiny greens contain four to six times more vitamin concentration than their mature counterparts. They also take less space, time and money to produce than fully-grown plants. The downside? All microgreens lose their nutrient value quickly—a problem when transporting them from farms but not when garnered at home.
“I like to think of our kits as farm on the table versus farm to table,” says Henson. “It helps the natural food industry if people grow things on their own. If people are in an apartment or don’t plant a garden, they can still grow things in the kitchen with our kits.”
The Product of Nature kits come with a growing tray (two different sizes: 10.5×10.5 or 10×20 inches), a bio-glass cover and one starter germination pad made from a natural fiber called kenaf. This common, wild plant from tropical and subtropical Africa and Asia has been a food and fiber crop for thousands of years. Invented and developed by David for use in hydroponic growing applications, Product of Nature’s kenaf germination pads are USDA approved and hold water without soil, providing the moisture needed to raise microgreens in 10-14 days.
When the seedlings have reached the proper height, cut them from the pad with kitchen scissors and compost the pad. Then purchase a pack of replacement germination pads and more seeds to start a new crop. Product of Nature offers 12 varieties of seeds, ranging from wheatgrass and purple radish to bestsellers broccoli, sunflower and—David’s personal favorite—arugula.
The Product of Nature brand is part of a larger company David started in Northfield nine years ago called Think Mint, which also includes the brand Magnimoist—a soil-hydrating liner used in landscaping and gardening applications, such as hanging baskets and raised garden beds. Also made from kenaf, David invented the garden liners before the germination pads by experimenting with various natural fibers to find a more effective way to retain soil moisture.
“I knew the market needed improvement over imported coco liners [used in hanging baskets],” says David. “So I tried kenaf and found it worked better and had important properties for horticulture. I collaborated with the University of Minnesota in growing trials to see if a pad made from kenaf would work below the soil to keep it more moist, and it did.”
After several years of selling the Magnimoist pads, David experimented with kenaf to see if it could be used without soil for hydroponic plant growth. This led to the invention of the Product of Nature germination pad.
Thanks to his ingenuity, David now has a patent pending for his environmentally-friendly pads as well as a product that allows consumers to grow their own microgreens at home. You can purchase Product of Nature kits at the People’s Food Co-op and online.
Marlene Petersen is a Rochester-based writer, editor and novelist.
Microgreen Arugula Pesto
- 2 cups arugula microgreens
- 2 cups spinach
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt & pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until a smooth paste forms. Add additional olive oil as needed for desired consistency. Serve with pasta or store in the refrigerator.