Amy S. West leads a somewhat eclectic life.
The former teacher can be found on any given day roaming her property in West Feliciana Parish tending bees or rehabilitating animals that have found their way to her through one source or another, or she can be found watering the microgreens she grows in her 80-foot nursery built by her son, Ian.
The nursery is called the Westdome Nursery after the dome-shaped home she shares with her husband, Howard, where they cultivate and grow their own microgreens and herbs.
Most microgreens begin as very tiny seeds and are cultivated using coco mats (made from coconut husks) on hydro-tables and in seedling trays with soil, then eaten when they’re just a few inches tall.
“They’re packed with phytonutrients and considered a superfood, rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that are really good for you,” West explains.
According to the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, young lettuce seedlings harvested seven days after germination contain the highest antioxidant capacity, as well as the highest concentrations of health-promoting phenolic compounds, compared with their more mature counterparts. Depending on the type of microgreen, other studies tout large amounts of vitamins C, E and K and beta carotene.
Some of the greens the Wests grow are amaranth, arugula, chard, dark opal and lime basil, broccoli, garnet mustard, kohlrabi, pac choi, rambo radish, snow pea shoots and upland cress. They also make mixes of microgreens, both mild and savory.
In addition to the microgreens, the couple grows and sells herbs such as aloe vera, bay, lemon balm and lemon verbana, peppermint, rosemary, fennel, pineapple sage, chocolate mint, oregano, garlic chives, thyme and parsley.
“We tried many types of hydromats and materials to raise our crops, but I wanted something that would not only produce a good crop but that had no dyes and was biodegradable,” West said. “Raising microgreens in a greenhouse is just like farming out in the fields. We still have to deal with insects, heat, cold and critters, but we raise all our crops without insecticides or pesticides. That is really important to me, raising the healthiest crop possible.”
After watering and nurturing the greens, West and her staff cut them from the trays and hydro-tables, then wash, dry and cool them.
Once they’re cooled, they’re packaged in small or large containers and sold by the pound.
West sells to local restaurants, such as The Magnolia Cafe and Birdman Coffee in St. Francisville, as well as to patrons of the Baton Rouge Main Street and St. Francisville farmers markets.
Another vendor at the St. Francisville market suggested West would do well selling her greens to Indie Plate, an online grocery store that delivers to customers’ front doors the next day.
West said microgreens can be enjoyed raw, on salads, or in omelettes, sandwiches or smoothies.
Outside the greenhouse, the Wests tend to their nine Russian honey beehives and oversee the care of seven others.
West will teach a four-week beginner’s beekeeping class for up to 10 adults starting Oct. 26 at the Westdome property, 10818 Wakefield Drive South, St. Francisville. This is the same class West taught for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute last year.
The class will explore how bees forage for food, communicate with each other, delegate duties to run their colony with efficiency, and how to extract honey. Participants will wear bee gear and visit an active hive.
To register for the class, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (225) 635-3098 or (225) 245-2832.
Visit indieplate.com to order herbs and microgreens from the Westdome Nursery or visit the St. Francisville Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays.