About Us

Ten years ago David Chelf, founder of Wicked Wilds, was a hydroponic grower. With a Masters in physics and a long standing passion for growing flavorful and nutritious fruits and vegetables, hydroponics seemed the appropriate method. Hydroponics allowed him to grow in a compact area and have total control of the plants’ environment. He had developed a small, elaborate greenhouse system which housed an assortment of baby lettuces and berries offered through his company, Aquarian Farms.

Baby greens were becoming more common in the market and his search for items that were challenging to grow and offered a high margin led him to a little known green called mâche. Mâche had the potential he was looking for, and he was confident that he could create a more desirable version than that grown by his competitor by controlling the application of nutrients to optimize growth.

An intricate system of cubes and conveyors was erected. Several months into production, Mr. Chelf noticed a beautiful, dark green rosette in the dirt near his feet, beneath the conveyor used to rotate the mâche plantings. One little seed had fallen from the belt and happened to land in the dirt next to a small leak in the hydroponics system. There it had grown, undetected until that moment. Despite the scientific focus and costly applications given to the hydroponic mâche, each planting grew small headed and leggy while this little renegade had grown wild and flourished, exhibiting completely different physical characteristics. He immediately recognized the potential of this unique specimen and went about trying to recreate its environment.

He soon discovered that mâche was no ordinary green. Like strawberries, the development of a strong root system was integral to the success of the plant. Extremely sensitive to their environment, even the slightest adjustment in the amount of water they received caused substantially different plants to emerge. Growing them hydroponically was virtually worthless. Rich soil was what these babies needed, so Aquarian Farms began the process of converting their farming operation.

In 1999 David was approached by Todd Koons, innovator of packaged organic salads and founder of TKO, Todd Koons Organics. He recognized David’s passion and ability, and together they set out to share this unique green with a larger audience.

During his years with Koons’ company, Epic Roots, David turned a deaf ear to the constant drone of conventional growers in the Salinas Valley who believed that the way to control insect pressure was to spray the hell out of the field; the way to prevent weak plants was to use tougher seed. No matter what you lose in the way of health benefits or flavor- you’ll make it up on the bottom line. People don’t care that much about what they eat, as long as it looks good.

Determined not to be distracted by this type of “conventional” wisdom and believing that people do care, he pressed on with the varieties of mâche he had identified at Aquarian Farms, varieties that offered the best taste, highest nutritional content and most distinct physical characteristics. Adjusting the nutrients for the soil of the Salinas Valley and further developing the farming techniques to cater to the needs of each.
David made several trips to Europe, during which he observed the growing practices of French, Italian and German farmers who have been growing mâche successfully for centuries. Visits with them provided an invaluable source of information.

Ultimately, Epic Roots caved in to the demands of the commercial produce industry and opted to use conventional farming methods and seed geared toward large scale commercial production.

Remembering that one rogue seed that had grown so beautifully without any chemical manipulation or human intervention, David knew there was a better way. By devoting careful attention to satisfying the needs of the plants and utilizing his well developed farming skills, he could do what he had been told could not be done. Rather than settle for less than his vision, he set out to create the ultimate line of produce…something beyond organic, something wild.

 

 

Wicked Wilds, Inc. 509 South Cedros Avenue Suite E, Solana Beach, CA 92075 858.755.7650