The Tiniest Herbs Are in Hot Demand

By Lee Jones, Farmer, The Chef’s Garden

JonesFamily

Farmer Lee Jones (with bowtie) with his father Bob Jones, Sr., and his brother Bob Jones, Jr.

More than 20 years ago, when baby mesclun greens hit the standard grocery store, they became passe with cutting-edge chefs. And so, the late, renowned Chef Charlie Trotter began looking for a replacement. He wanted something on the plate with a “wow” factor.

And, he found it at our farm — The Chef’s Garden — in Huron, Ohio.

He saw our crop of transplants (plants started in the greenhouse to be planted in the field) and said ‘That’s it!  While we looked at the stage of growth as too small to be viable, Chef Trotter and his team loved the size, texture, tenderness, the leaf structure, and most of all, the amazing flavor.

And so, the “micro” size was born.

We began with microgreens, and quickly realized that many other crops could be grown to that size – including herbs.

A microherb is an herb plant grown to a stage of growth and a specific size. While each crop varies, it’s typically 1 ½” to 2” long, with cotyledon leaves and the first true leaves apparent. Cotyledon are the first leaf or leaves that emerge from a seed.

Lemon basil

Lemon basil

The Chef’s Garden grows more than 50 varieties of microherbs – including tarragon, marjoram, Perilla, anise hyssop, and eight varieties of basil.  The growing time depends on the variety and the time of year. It can range from 21 days to as long as 3 months. Microherbs are available 12 months a year, but many have a season – like basil with tomato season.

Chefs continue to use them for the same reason that Chef Trotter did. The flavor is of utmost importance, and presentation is attention getting.

For maximum effect, we hand-cut ours to order and they are typically in a professional Chef’s kitchen within 24 hours of harvest. They are used in all aspects of the kitchen, from the amuse-bouche to dessert. They are rarely used as a “garnish” per se, they are a component of the dish to add flavor that compliments the rest of the plate.

More and more we’re seeing them used by mixologists.

Dill

Dill

Our microgreens and microherbs are used in some of the best restaurants in the world, including Chef Thomas Keller’s Per Se and French Laundry, Chef Curtis Duffy’s Grace, Chef Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, all of Chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants, Chef Joel Robuchon at the MGM, and Chef Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in NYC.

In Ceveland, not far from the farm, some of the  best chefs use our microherbs, including Chef Michael Symon, Chef Jonathon Sawyer, Chef Doug Katz, Zack Bruell, Chef Rocco Whalen and Chef Matt Del Regno. Internationally you can taste our microherbs at the The Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons in Hong Kong.

Perpetually clad in his trademark overalls and a red bowtie, Farmer Lee Jones is a pioneer of the sustainable agricultural movement who continues to keep The Chef’s Garden on the cutting edge of the produce business. His family’s 300-acre vegetable farm in Ohio grows the best-tasting and most nutritious specialty vegetables herbs and micro greens in the world. The family lives by a commitment to producing food that looks good, tastes good and is good for you.


When not farming, visiting chefs or attending industry events, Farmer Jones enjoys spending time with his wife, Mary, walking in the woods with his Golden Retrievers, Thyme and Tansy, and caring for his team of Belgian horses.

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