The appearance of produce from Naked Carrot is rather like looking at baby photos of adults you know – the essence of what they are to become is there in features yet to be fully expressed.
And the character traits are laid early too – it’s amazing how strongly radish and beetroot taste of themselves when no bulb has formed and they are just a couple of leaves at the top of a wispy stem.
When Lynda Stellamaris and Mark Fonderie began their urban farm business, she phoned top chefs and made appointments to see them. One granted her time but warned that he felt microgreens did not taste of anything.
Having sampled the intense flavours of their microgreens, he subsequently became one of their best customers. Celery, wasabi, coriander and chervil pack a familiar punch. Kohlrabi, amaranth and sunflower are not as easy to identify.
Sunflower seeds provided the germination to Mark and Lynda becoming farmers of microgreens.
12 years ago they lived in Western Australia. Lynda was a social worker and Mark was a geophysicist working on oil and gas exploration. They undertook a one-month residential deep ecology course in search of a way of living differently, more sustainably.
"We wanted to change to a more sustainable lifestyle and to provide something for people that is positive and good. Our products taste good, look good and are really good for people to eat", says Mark.
The course cook would bring in local farmers and suppliers to talk to the students in their breaks and one of these grew sunflower greens, which no one had tasted before but everyone loved.
Lynda asked the farmer to teach her how to grow them and spent a week working alongside him.
At the conference they met a Tasmanian couple whose praise of their home state prompted a visit and they stayed.
The property, on a sun-facing slope of Mount Nelson where they operate is on the edge of of a State park.
Seeds are essentially nutritious, given that they contain everything a plant needs for life and growth. And sprouting them brings out many enzymes that make the increased vitamin load, the protein and amino acids much easier for our bodies to make the most of.
Mark and Lynda started with poly tunnels but found they were too cold for Mount Nelson and the latch proved to be insecure. We came out in the morning and this big possum had got in and eaten everything and was just lying back in the bed, so happy, says Lynda.
Now they grow microgreens under lights in an insulated heated growing room. We wanted to have a business which was sustainable so we designed it so that 80% of the heat and much of the water is recycled. Mini greens, such as shiso and mizuna grow in greenhouses are outside alongside edible flowers.
For two years when they first started, Lynda and Mark experimented with soil blends. They enlisted the help of a soil expert and sent samples off to laboratories for analysis. Now their potting mix is made up of their secret recipe and they give it the credit for the distinct flavors of their products.
They no longer support possums, but colourful parrots line up on fences waiting for a chance to nab something. Most of their microgreens are sold as living herbs, others are harvested into ready-made mixes which they have created. The root mass from the trimmed shoots go out on top of the compost heap and by morning wallabies and potoroos have processed it to a fine tilth.
Recently, at the Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards, Naked Carrot radishini was champion of the herbs and spices section and aramantini was runner up. In fact, very few of their products lack a gold medal in the awards.
Naked Carrot microgreens are mostly sold directly to restaurants and cafes, but you can buy them at Hill Street and Salad Bowl, Eumarrah, IGA Lindisfarne, the Harest Feast stall at Salamanca Market.
From an article in the Mercury by Elaine Reeves