Growing a Culinary Garden for Your Restaurant

Home-growing produce for your commercial kitchen is a great way to give your dishes fresher flavors. With flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables growing only feet from your kitchen, your customers will not only taste stronger flavors on their plates, but they'll also experience the satisfaction of seeing exactly where their food came from.

What are the Benefits of a Culinary Garden?

How to Build a Culinary Garden
  • Larger Stock - Growing your own herbs and produce is a surefire way to know where your food came from. When other restaurants are worried about recalls or shortages, you’ll still be fully stocked. You can also grow uncommon herbs that can give your dishes unique flavors!
  • Fresher, Better-Tasting Ingredients - Since the ingredients are growing only feet from your kitchen, they retain their strong flavors. Herbs sitting on a shelf lose their flavors over time. Having a culinary garden allows you to skip the storage shelf, resulting in better-tasting ingredients.
  • Less Expensive - A packet of seeds will set you back a couple of dollars at most. Maintaining a small herb garden costs less than buying the same produce in a store or market.
  • Environmental Benefits - Most people know that plants help filter the air we need to breathe, but using home-grown ingredients in your commercial cooking also cuts down on the packaging that store-bought produce comes in. Less packaging means less waste in landfills. It also cuts out a huge amount of carbon emissions that result from the transportation of goods from the farm to the store to the kitchen.
  • Sense of Fulfillment - Tending to a garden can bring a tremendous sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Studies suggest that gardening can actually reduce the risk of diseases like depression and improve your mood. You can even use the garden as a team-building exercise to create a happier, more cohesive staff.
  • Free Landscaping - In addition to their functionality, gardens also provide beautiful landscaping for any facility. Your customers will love having the leafy green plants and colorful flowers around, especially if your dining area is outside.
  • Novelty - Culinary gardens are becoming popular in the same way that farm-to-table restaurants and locally-grown food have. Knowing where your ingredients come from makes it easier to know they are all-natural, with no pesticides or preservatives.

Where Can I Build a Garden?

Growing A Garden for Your Restaurant

It doesn’t matter where your restaurant is – you have plenty of space for a small herb or vegetable garden. Establishments in suburbs or country areas can easily build the garden on the lawn or behind the kitchen, for easy access.

Restaurants in the city tend not to have much, if any, yard space, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a culinary garden! Urban agriculture is making a comeback. This can mean window boxes, rooftop gardens, or even plants on the fire escape. It doesn’t take very much space to grow fresh vegetables and herbs because just a few planters can be used to grow a wide variety. The plants themselves will stay small because you’ll constantly be using the leaves for cooking.

What Can I Grow?

Benefits of a Culinary Garden

To save space, different herbs can be planted in the same bed or planter. The golden rule for growing herbs together is that you should only combine herbs that require similar conditions. For instance, Mediterranean varieties like rosemary, oregano, lavender, sage, marjoram, and thyme require drier soil and lots of sunlight. Plants like parsley, basil, tarragon, and cilantro like lots of water and can grow in shadier areas. Always be sure to match up the growing information before you combine plants.

You can also grow fresh vegetables and fruits in planters and small culinary gardens! Tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and peas are all great choices because they can be trained to run vertically up trellises, maximizing your space. Popular fruits include strawberries and cantaloupes because they stay low to the ground, as opposed to tall fruit trees which take up much more room.

To add some color to your garden, you can also think about adding edible flowers. Violets and roses can be used as sweet garnishes on desserts, while bright blue borage petals taste like cucumbers and can be used in salads. Edible flowers are a beautiful, creative way to incorporate color into your culinary garden and your menu.

Fresh herbs, fruits, and veggies add fresh flavors to your signature dishes and look great in window boxes, pots, and plots of land. So whether you’re looking to expand the menu at your family Italian bistro or find a new draw your urban rooftop restaurant, a culinary garden might be a good option for you.

Posted in: Foodservice Trends|Kitchen & Cooking Tips|By Amber Burns
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