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Farmer specializes in growing microgreens for restaurants.
John Biscoe (right) sells microgreens and other chemical-free produce at a Spotsy market.
PHOTOS BY SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY KATIE THISDELL
The best way to tour a farm is by taste, says John Biscoe.
How else would you know the blue spice basil has a bubblegum aftertaste?
Or that the lingering June strawberry may be the best you've had all year?
And the edible pansies may dress up your plate, but it's the nasturtiums that carry a peppery bite.
"They taste completely different off the plant than they do the next day," explained Biscoe, who sells at Spotsylvania County farmers markets.
Biscoe grows organic produce on his family's 800-acre Glenburnie Farm in western Spotsylvania, including a greenhouse full of tiny vegetable plants called microgreens.
Local chefs rave over Biscoe's microgreens, which are served in several downtown Fredericksburg restaurants, along with top dining spots in Washington.
"His microgreens are amazing--he has all different varieties," said Blake Bethem, owner of Bistro Bethem on William Street.
"He's a small farmer. That's what chefs are looking for. The small guys support each other."
Biscoe, 46, grew up swearing he'd never be a farmer.
He spent his childhood on Glenburnie Farm, which has been in his family since at least the late 1850s.
Now, his brothers Bill, 61, and Bruce, 60, keep a herd of 500 cows.
He left the area for a while to study English at Virginia Commonwealth University, and then was a screenprinter for 10 years.
By 2000, he desperately needed a change.
"I was sick of what I was doing," Biscoe said.
A friend proposed an idea: What about growing organic herbs and microgreens? Biscoe was sold.
The two men had a business divorce a few years ago, so now Biscoe runs the farm on his own.
Surrounded by fields of corn grown by his family sits a greenhouse filled with trays and trays of tiny plants.
The 2-inch-tall greens don't look like all that much, but they anchor Biscoe's business.
Restaurants and home chefs often use microgreens in salads or as garnishes. Their itty-bitty leaves and thin stems add a crunch and burst of flavor to dishes, such as Bethem's crab and avocado salad.
John Biscoe sells at two markets in Spotsylvania: the Saturday morning farmers market at the commuter lot on Gordon Road, off State Route 3, and the new Wednesday afternoon market at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.
He offers assorted seasonal vegetables, herbs, microgreens, a variety of hot peppers and aloe vera plants.
Biscoe's produce is served at Bistro Bethem, Foode, the Sunken Well Tavern and the Otter House, all in downtown Fredericksburg.