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Microgreens, freeze-dried candy among new offerings at farmers market

Longtime favourites like Brooks Farm are returning to the downtown market, opening this Saturday, as well as new ones like AJL & Sons

As the cost of living continued to rise, Jason and Angelica Le Mesurier were looking for ways to support their family.   

“We saw people from the States with a lucrative side hustle of selling microgreens, something we hadn’t seen here,” said Angelica, who grew up in the Stonehaven neighbourhood, and now works as a prosecution clerk in York Region. 

The couple started growing microgreens and it quickly became “income to pay the bills.”

Microgreens are a “health superfood” that are easy to grow and nutrition dense because they are harvested at their earliest stage – about seven to 10 days after they are planted, Jason said.

Because microgreens require a controlled humidity level, the couple, owners of AJL & Sons farms in Uxbridge and parents to two boys, retrofitted a room in their basement to grow the plants.

They use organic seeds and soil and no pesticides.

This year, the couple are bringing their microgreens, including black sunflower, broccoli, peas and more to the Newmarket Farmers’ Market, which is open Saturdays from May 6 to Oct. 28. 

Microgreens are packed with vitamins and minerals, while also being hardy and versatile: they can be used as a substitute for lettuce on burgers, in an omelette, or as a garnish.

“I take a container to work with me and snack on it,” said Jason, a renovation specialist.  

They are also fresh.

“If I go to the farmers market on Saturday, I have planted on the Tuesday prior, and cropped that morning or the day before,” Jason said.

The couple will also be bringing their freeze-dried items to the market, including pasta, fruit and candy.

Freeze-dried food can last 25 years and is as nutritional as the day it was created, Jason said.

“If there is a power outage, you would rehydrate the food and it comes back as tasty and as fresh as the day it was made,” Jason said.

Things like the fruit don’t even need to be rehydrated, Angelica said, with her boys taking freeze-dried strawberries to school and eating them that way.

“Some clients eat cereal and put the strawberries in it. The milk reconstitutes it.”

Candy, one of their most popular freeze-dried items, changes in the process so Skittles, for example, expand and become crunchy.

“It’s all of the taste, but none of that stickiness,” Angelica said. 

While the couple brought their items to the Newmarket Christmas Sale, it’s the first time they will attend the summer market.

“We really want to expose people to the benefit of microgreens and eating their vegetables in this form,” Angelica said. 

Alvin Brooks from Brooks Farms said he is also looking forward to the upcoming farmers market season.

Brooks Farms has been a vendor at the market, which started in 1999, for more than 10 years.

“I look at the farmers market as a way to get products in front of the most customers,” said Brooks, whose family has farmed the Mount Albert land for more than 150 years.G

Going to the market is also a tradition. Brooks said he loves seeing his old and new friends – fellow vendors, as well as customers who he meets.

“I enjoy the interaction,” he said.

This year, Brooks Farms will once again be ready with their baked goods on opening weekend. He is also confident he will bring asparagus.

“It’s the first and second time that has happened at this time of year.” 

While asparagus “is the earliest, freshest spring vegetable,” it’s not usually ready until the second week of May. 

As season progresses, Brooks said they also bring fresh fruits and vegetables.

Products are “a day from the field. That is our main goal of the farm, to bring freshness right to the market.”

They also bring hard-to-find items grown on their farm such as gooseberries, black and red currants, Saskatoon berries, and haskaps, an oblong, football-shaped berry.

The Newmarket Farmers’ Market is a fun destination, Brooks said. Parents can do their shopping for the week, kids can play in the splash pad and there are lots of vendor products to enjoy.

“A lot of people come down for their Saturday brunch. It’s also a bit like church. There’s a lot of social.”