Malaia Martinez plucked a tiny yellow bud from a small flat planter and held it up to the grow lights that imitate direct and indirect sunlight at her hydroponic farm. “This is toothache button,” said Martinez. “These are really numbing. A lot of restaurants use that as a palate cleanser, in between courses. It’s also used in cocktails.”
Toothache buttons, also known by descriptors like buzz button and electric daisy, are the flower of the Acmella oleracea plant, which grows in the tropics and are used to flavor foods and as a medicine with a numbing effect used for tooth pain (hence the nickname). The plant is among the microgreen herbs and edible flowers Martinez and partner Jaebin Yoo grow at their newly opened hydroponic farm, Malaia’s Microgreens.
Malaia’s Microgreens’ new hydroponic farm is a large-scale version of the hydroponic garden the partners began during the pandemic in a neighbor’s shed. They sold their greens at farmers markets in Santa Monica, Brentwood, and Calabasas and earned their Certified Farmers Certificate. The foundation in the shed, which was unstable to begin with, shifted over time, and they moved the operation into Martinez’s garage, before an unhappy landlord forced them to find a new place for the business.
“When we had to figure out what to do with the business, we decided to double down, and it was kind of the push we needed at that moment,” said Yoo. “We never saw ourselves getting a warehouse anytime soon. If the garage went well, we would have stuck in the garage. But because we had that push, we moved into this today.”
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