Little Greens, Big Flavor

Brendan Davison of Good Water Farms

AMAGANSETT —Delicate and lovely and doomed from birth to an early death, microgreens—bright-flavored shoots of herbs and leaves—are the neurasthenics of the salad world. Until recently no one grew them in any quantity on the South Fork (although Satur Farms in Cutchogue offers them, as does Koppert Cress, which counts the New York Yankees among its high-profile clientele). From time to time you might spot them at a certain fancy food shop, but those microgreens always look travel-spent, all but fainting away.

And then last June, small packets of fresh microgreens started cropping up at Provisions in Sag Harbor. Through the summer and into the fall they continued to materialize, but from where?

On the label, a minute telephone number offered the magnifying glass-equipped investigator a lead to a 7-by-14-foot Amagansett greenhouse named, in grand fashion, Good Water Farms. Flourishing in that close space were at least 20 varieties of miniature plants sown from organic seed, including elfin carrot tops (which taste like the Platonic essence of, well, a tiny carrot), sorrel, amaranth, garnet mustard and China rose radish. “Try the cumin,” said Brendan Davison, the grower, who lives on the property. “You’ll freak, I promise.”

And he should know, because Davison (shown opposite page) happens to be a practitioner of shamanic energy medicine. During his apprenticeship, he spent time in Cuzco, Peru, where, it appears, shaman-farmers are not unusual.

Reflecting on the close connection between the two callings, he realized his was to devote himself to microgreens. The idea turned out to be a good one. When he went round to restaurants like Nobu, South Edison, Sen, and Nick and Toni’s with his first harvest, the chefs all wanted to know when he could bring more (12 to 18 days from seed to plate, depending on the variety). This past summer, customers included Ruschmeyer’s, Navy Beach and Crow’s Nest in Montauk, as well as the 1770 House in East Hampton and Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor.

Having outgrown his backyard quarters due to demand, Davison plans to move the year-round business to an 1,800-square-foot warehouse in East Hampton and extend his reach to restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“What makes Good Water Farms special,” said chef Joe Isidori of South Fork Kitchen, “is that Brendan delivers the plants by the flat so we can snip them right before we serve them. The stuff I could get from other sources isn’t local and it’s already bagged.”

What’s more, most of the big growers rely on soil-free growing mediums, while Davison uses an organic potting mix enriched with worm castings, bat guano and fish meal. And then there’s that metaphysical ingredient he’s slightly embarrassed to talk about.

“The shamans call it ‘opening sacred space,’” he says, “and it involves invoking the four directions. It sounds funny, I know, but I do it every time I plant seeds. It brings all the elements into right relationship.”

Laurel Berger is an arts writer in Sag Harbor.

Good Water Farms sprouts and microgreens are sold at Provisions Natural Foods in Sag Harbor, Naturally Good Foods in Montauk, and the Sag Harbor Winter Farmers Market.