Among the North Fork's farms and wineries, there has been a curious buzz about the renovated greenhouse that sits on 30 acres at Sound Avenue and Horton Street in Riverhead. The vibrant colors and aromatics that are contained in this state-of-the-art greenhouse facility are that of Koppert Cress, a company that specializes in flavor packed Microgreens, Micro vegetables and Specialties. These are seedlings of heirloom plants, which have their own specific effect on the senses. They deliver unique greens uncut and alive in their natural state all year long for chefs, hotels, caterers and gourmet markets throughout the world.
My first introduction to Koppert Cress was at the 3rd Annual Harvest East End in Bridgehampton and shortly after the 6th Annual North Fork Foodie Tour. My taste buds were dazzled with flavor. I tried the Popcorn Shoot that was the width of a toothpick and 3-4-inches long. The sweet condensed corn flavor was as if I shoved about 100 perfectly harvested kernels of corn in my mouth and somehow was able to chew. I then sampled the Affilla Cress, that taste like fresh peas, Salty Fingers, that have a crisp salty punch and Micro Wasabi that is spicy like horseradish. The amount of flavor these tiny morsels hold is outstanding and almost unbelievable until you try them. I suppose it has something to do with the seeds, which are culled from around the world and sold in their infancy to maximize potent and exacting flavors.
To top off my experience I was presented with the Sechuan Button, the yellow bud of a flower found in Africa, South America and some parts of Asia. To try this is startling: the sensation starts with a sweet tingling on the top of your tongue, followed by an overall “Pop Rocks” explosion in your mouth with a numbing effect. You will either hate it or love it (I am on the fence) and sure you will never forget the first time you try it.
Koppert Cress started on July 1, 2002 in Monster, Netherlands, after being purchased by Rob Baan. In 1993 and 2001 the company received the prestigious AGF Innovation Award. This biannual award sparked further developments and since then Koppert Cress has grown to be one of the leading horticultural businesses in the world.
In October 2006, Koppert Cress launched its first franchise in the United States purchasing the former 30,000-square-foot Peconic Greenhouse in Cutchogue, New York.
The company selected the North Fork for logistic and climatological reasons. Cutchogue is perfectly situated close enough to the restaurants of New York City and the surrounding area, which are considered the country’s culinary epicenter and exactly where Koppert Cress wanted to be.
So, when Nicolas Mazard, the Director of Sales and Marketing for Koppert Cress contacted me to schedule a tour of the greenhouse in Riverhead—I jumped at the invitation. I met Nicolas on a very cold Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. in front of the newly renovated greenhouse that was beaming from the reflection of the sun. The beam of light was very reflective of Nicolas’ proud sentiment towards this new expansion and the Koppert Cress products, which he calls “our children”.
Nicolas’ is of French decent and the combination of his studies is very unique. Having a Degree in Horticulture and in Sales, Merchandising and Related Marketing Operations makes him a passionate Farmer with a marketing mind.
“I have been working for Koppert Cress for 10 Years,” says Nicolas. “I started out as a Marketing Manager for the French Market in the Netherlands and in October of 2006 came to the United States to help establish the Cutchogue location and eventually became the Director of Sales and Marketing in 2008.”
As we walked through the greenhouse Nicolas was extremely happy to see his trial microgreens taking well to their new environment. He affectionately states, “Each plant is like a lady and has a different tolerance to the cold”. The water and room temperatures in the greenhouses are carefully monitored and the staff uses biological pest control methods, releasing the natural predators of unwanted insects.
You cannot help but notice that the greenhouse is four times the size of the Cutchogue location.
“This new space can provide more products across the United States for our consumers. I am proud we will be the largest microgreens grower in the United States in terms of volume. This will allow us to spread our wings and grow,” Nicolas explains. “I want people to understand what we are doing, and the good we are doing on many levels.”
Nicolas Mazard’s passion and goodwill is evident. He is a horticulturist at heart and a marketer in his mind that’s not only enamored with Koppert Cress products but someone who genuinely cares about his community.
“Hiring a lot of people will stimulate the economy on the North Fork,” says Nicolas.
“We are also in discussions with a well-known culinary institute in New York City on developing a special partnership and program for the school.”
As I was admiring the 30 acres where the new Koppert Cress greenhouse sits, I asked Nicolas, “Is this where you were thinking of hosting an annual farmers market?” He said, “Yes, imagine all the good we can do by lending a hand to our fellow farmers and community.”
Koppert Cress will be coming to the New York City farmers markets in the near future. Check out their facebook page to get the latest updates.
All year-round you can call ahead to place an order and pick up your items at the Cutchogue greenhouse. In warmer months you can buy from the farmers stand at the front entrance. Phone: 613.734.8500. Address: 23423 Middle Road / Route 48. Cutchogue, NY 11935. Website: http://usa.koppertcress.com/