Small plants are a big deal for Glade Spring retiree | Latest titles

BY CAROLYN WILSON SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER

GLADE SPRING, Va. — It’s a small world for Walter Groux.

On a scenic acreage nestled in the small Washington Springs community of Glade Spring, Groux is spending his semi-retirement growing up small, but thinking big.

Groux, 67, spends hours every day tending to an indoor crop of microgreens — young leafy greens that can be sprinkled on everything from soups, salads and burgers and mixed into smoothies. for additional nutritional support.

With big flavors in small bites, microgreens are becoming a hit among people looking to add a healthy twist to their diet.

The local grower harvests up to 29 different varieties of microgreens on his Nature’s Edge farm, most of which he brings to the Abingdon Farmer’s Market or sells to several high-end restaurants in Abingdon, including Foresta and The Tavern.

With a surname pronounced as if you were “growing” something in your garden, “Walter Groux Craft Microgreens” was an appropriate name to mark the flagship product, he said.

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Groux spent hours learning how to grow many varieties, starting with the most common ones like kale, radishes, arugula, sunflowers, broccoli, carrots and peas.

“This one’s called amaranth,” Groux said, pointing to a patch of microgreens ready for delivery from a restaurant. “Chefs love to decorate with this pink.”

Edible plants with a short harvest time — just a few days — are nature’s best kept secret, it seems.

Chefs love them for their aesthetic qualities and home growers appreciate their nutritional values, offering the same nutrients as adult vegetables at a higher level, but in a smaller package.

Microgreens are more than pretty toppings, the company owner says. Young plants pack a nutritious punch, adding vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants to any meal.

In fact, the grower was first drawn to growing the versatile microgreens for their nutritious benefits.

“Some of the nutrients in broccoli microgreens can be up to 40 times what you get in regular adult broccoli,” Groux said.

“They’re amazing,” he said of the baby plants. “They are like children. They all have different personalities, needs, flavors and nutritional properties.

A spare room in his house contains shelves for growing equipment and supplies. The grow space will hold 160 5×5 inch seed squares under lights, with fans spinning overhead.

“My wife calls it the ‘green room’. She loves visiting it for the ambiance.

The grower is a year-round vendor at the Abingdon Farmers Market where he sells a variety of microgreens to customers who are hungry to learn more about edible plants.

Groux said microgreens are often confused with sprouts.

“Microgreens are often ready to eat within a week or two. Mine are grown in the ground under lights, while some people grow them hydroponically,” he explained. “Germs come from an entirely different process in water.”

With some trial and error, microgreens can be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill or with grow lights. Harvesting the plants simply involves cutting off the tender tops with a pair of scissors.

“What I really like is spreading awareness of the nutritional value of micro-vegetables. It’s not a hard sell. There’s a lot of interest,” he said.

This week he will visit a classroom at Damascus Middle School where he will show students his craft and send them home with kits to grow their own microgreens.

He has developed microgreen grow kits which he sells at the Farmers Market and local shops including Snow’s Fine Meats & Provisions in Abingdon and the Meadowview Farmers Guild in Meadowview. It’s his way of encouraging his customers to experiment with growing plants at home.

Growing things comes naturally

Groux has been drawn to the outdoors and growing things since he was a child.

Raised in Newport, Rhode Island, he often visited his grandfather in the countryside who grew interesting things like watermelons in the garden. After his marriage in 1990, Groux and his wife, Marguerite, moved to Connecticut in 2004 before later settling in southwestern Virginia. He has spent most of his career as an entrepreneur or in retail and management.

His retirement years in Glade Spring were recently spent splashing around in raised gardens until one day he received a gift box in the mail from a friend in Connecticut.

It was a box of microgreen seeds—a little box that prompted and inspired the grower to plant the contents and see what happened.

And, he did, cultivating his interest in a food company.

Groux is also intrigued by the prospects of how microgreens could help meet the nutritional needs of a growing planet.

Microgreens can be grown by anyone, anywhere, making them an ideal solution for food insecure areas, he said.

“They’re also good for the planet, because growing microgreens requires fewer resources than traditional farming.”

Incorporating locally grown microgreens into your diet is one way to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life. This is because growing microgreens requires far fewer resources than traditionally grown foods.

“They’re nutritious, delicious, and just plain fun to grow,” Groux said. “It’s a win, a win.”

To learn more, visit the website at www.NaturesEdgeFarm.com or check out @NaturesEdgeFarmVA on Facebook.

The Abingdon Farmers Market, located on the corner of Remsburg Drive and Cummings Street, will open for its regular season from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 2. The Tuesday market resumes from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. from April 5.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected]

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