Microgreens might be small, but West Hartford residents’ new business, Hartford Plant Company, is expanding quickly.
By Tracey Weiss
At the Hartford Plant Company, business is growing as fast as its popular microgreens can pop up.
The company, owned by husband and wife team Matt and Anastasiya Collins and Valentina Mikhailova, Anastasiya’s mother, made their first sale in January 2021 to one restaurant. Now, HPC, as it’s nicknamed, has expanded its business to include several restaurants in West Hartford, Glastonbury, New Haven, and Middletown.
The volume of microgreen sales has increased so dramatically, they’ve moved their business from their West Hartford house to the Swift Factory, a refurbished commercial and community campus near Keney Park in Hartford. Microgreens “look pretty and stay fresh for a long time,” Anastasiya said, even though they always harvest a restaurant’s orders the day of delivery.
They grow and sell a lot of the Rainbow Mix, “which has a basil flavor,” Matt said. “The spicy mix has mustard and arugula.” The trio also grows cilantro, arugula, wheatgrass, basil, sunflower, broccoli, pea shoots, red cabbage, kale, China Rose radish, and Daikon radish, among others.
Good for you and delicious too
Niels van Galen, executive chef at Cotton Hollow Kitchen in South Glastonbury, calls HPC’s products “the best microgreens around. It’s a small family business just like ours,” he added. “They offer fantastic products and their customer service is excellent. Matt, our salesman, and I have a great relationship and the products they provide us are just what we are looking for to help bring our dishes to the next level.”
Not only delicious, microgreens are good for you, according to Anastasiya. “It’s best to eat them raw for the nutrients. They’re concentrated and much healthier than the regular-sized vegetables. The cilantro contains more nutrients than full grown cilantro. Broccoli too. And they’re more intense in flavor.”
Indeed, one small handful of most microgreens contains as much nutrition as a serving of the full-grown vegetable. According to the company’s website, “the flavors of plants at the microgreen stage are also far stronger – you need less to taste more.”
Though you will find microgreens served as garnish on quite a few dishes at restaurants, “some microgreens such as sunflower serve as a snack all by themselves,” according to www.hartfordplantco.com. “In addition to packing a nutritional and flavorful punch, microgreens reduce environmental footprints. Micro broccoli, for example, requires hundreds of times less water than a nutritionally equivalent amount of mature broccoli.”
The growing season for microgreens is short and very palatable: one to two weeks is considered a growing season, so they’re available year-round.
Hartford Plant Company was conceived as a “small and intimate” enterprise, according to Matt.
“We bought a rack and installed it in the kitchen,” Anastasiya said.
It started when Valentina, who is the principal micro-green grower, needed to leave Belarus in late 2020, affected by the political circumstances in her country.
She grew up in Siberia and lived in Belarus from the mid-80s until October 2020 when she moved here as a direct result of the political turmoil.
Anastasiya, who moved here from Belarus in 2008, is a UConn Law graduate and now an insurance lawyer.
When they started the company, Matt added, “I was teaching at Trinity College and doing a postdoc at Harvard, where I also did my PhD in Italian literature; I’m now in my first year of law school.”
“[Valentina] was just sitting at home, because of Covid,” Anastasiya said. “We were working. She started propagating begonias.”
Valentina turned out to be as good at growing microgreens as she was at growing flowers.
“I’m amazed that she is able to do this,” Anastasiya said. “Moving from her country. A new language, a new culture – doing something she has never done and succeeding. She plays music and meditates. When Matt and I come home from these long stressful days, there’s music and plants!”
Hartford Plant Company has partnered with Essential Health, a business on Park Road known for its health food store, chiropractic services, yoga, and other goods and services, to be a pick-up spot and a sales outlet for its microgreens.
“The idea of having Hartford Plant Company products in the natural market side of my chiropractic business makes total sense with our business model,” said Dr. Allie Mendelson, who co-owns Essential Health with her husband, David Mendelson. “The main mission of my chiropractic treatments is to help my patients work toward the healthiest lifestyle possible, which includes making healthy food choices …”
Nothing is wasted or tossed after its use is over at HPC. The soil cannot be reused for growing another round of microgreens, so HPC brings it to Keney Park – the resident chickens enjoy it.
“They love the coconut coir” mixed into the soil and happily eat it, Anastasiya said. Coconut coir is a natural fiber extracted from the outer husk of coconut and used in gardening and other products. Coconut coir holds moisture well but contains no nutrients so it must be mixed in with other products used for growing microgreens.
Anastasiya and Matt are looking at options for future expansion, including dehydrating their products, though they still have a lot of research to do.
“We dehydrate what isn’t sold or used now,” Anastasiya said. “When microgreens are dehydrated they become even more concentrated in flavor, and they retain their nutritional value. They will be good for up to a year.”
Go to www.hartfordplantco.com for more information.
Want to buy microgreens from Hartford Plant Company?
- Order home delivery at http://www.hartfordplantco.com/
- Come to the drop-off at the same location as the West Hartford Farmers’ Market on Arapahoe Street (in season) from 9-10 a.m. each Saturday.
- Send an email to [email protected]or a text to 216-973-0467 with your order at least one day in advance of pickup.
- Or, pick up orders from Essential Health at 74 Park Road in West Hartford on Saturdays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. or on Mondays (order in advance via email or by text by Friday).
A version of this article also appeared in the April 2022 issue of West Hartford LIFE
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