Restaurant Development & Design

WINTER 2014

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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GARDEN Insights SARA GASBARRA, founder, Verdura, a builder and manager of edible, on-site and rooftop gardens 1 6 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • W I N T E R 2 0 1 4 deer tongue and red leaf vegetable amaranth. The team also grew other baby lettuces, unique herbs and fowers such as bronze fennel, lay laurel, lemon verbena and edible nasturtiums, as well as several types of tomatoes and tomatillos, peppers, ground cherries, strawberries, sugar snap peas, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, radishes, turnips, squash, Jerusalem artichokes and other root vegetables. "Crops like lemon verbena, ground cherries and bronze fennel can be diffcult to source, so it makes sense to grow them so we know we will have them for the season and minimize hav- ing to compete with other restaurants at the markets," Ortúzar says. The restaurant showcases the produce both as specialty items and in succession to meet ongoing needs. "We plan plantings so the kitchen isn't hit with the crop's entire yield all at once," Ortúzar says. "When one plant is fully mature, we have another still developing behind it. Also, what the farm produces, the restaurant has to use. If there is too much, we preserve what cannot be used and use it throughout the year." During the colder months, the restaurant uses low tunnels that have been set up in above-freezing tem- peratures warm enough to produce certain crops. Some plants grow slowly throughout the winter, while others may hibernate, but they stay alive, ready for the next season. "It's worth the effort to grow throughout the winter in this way because then we'll have a head start on spring and not have to wait until it's warm enough for new plants to germi- nate," says Ortúzar. On a daily basis, the farm manage- ment team waters, harvests, tracks, plants and records everything from plant behavior to what's been harvest- ed. The chefs and farm staff also meet regularly to plan ahead as well as build and manage the compost piles. + TREND rd+d: Do restaurant gardens have to be big to be effective? SG: The frst thing I always tell my clients is the garden is not going to replace everything they purchase from farmers or purveyors. These gardens will cut down on some costs, but they are also great marketing tools. Diners seem to like to eat at restaurants knowing they are eating some produce from the garden and in some cases be able to look out on the garden. Size doesn't necessarily matter, but they have the same benefts. Restaurants don't need a massive garden on their roof — they can easily start with some planter boxes on their sidewalk or off the back door of their kitchen. rd+d: How do you help restaurants decide what to grow? SG: We look at a crop list and determine what makes sense for them based on the size of the garden and their operation. If you only have a few raised boxes, it doesn't make sense to grow tomatoes because the yield is not large enough to warrant any big difference. It might make more sense to grow just unique herbs or other produce as more rare fnds and specialty items. rd+d: How involved are the restaurateurs you work with in maintaining their gardens? SG: Throughout the season, the restaurants are going to do some maintenance. I visit a couple times a month to check on things, but the restaurant needs to focus on harvesting regularly. It makes sense if they have a point person who will oversee the garden and the entire project from the start of the season until the end. A successful garden requires constant maintenance and attendance; crops need to be fertilized, weeded, pruned, staked and watered, so it's a bit of an investment. As far as irrigation, it's best to have a system of tubing that runs on a battery-operated timer to water typically twice a day. I also use drip irrigation through a water source on the roof rather than spraying or standing water so the planter boxes stay consistently moist, but not over- or under-watered. rd+d: What is the cost of some of the restaurant gardens you have helped build? SG: Costs can range anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to upwards of $10,000, depending on size and labor needs. In many cases these costs can be justifed as a marketing expense, especially if the restaurant shares what they are growing in the garden online and through their social media channels. rd+d: How should gardens be closed down for the season? SG: All of the annual plants that are spent are pulled, root and all. As for perennial herbs such as sorrel, sage, lovage, tarragon, etc, I cut them down to about two inches above the soil to promote new, healthy growth in the spring. If certain herb cuttings, such as sage, rosemary and thyme are still green and usable in the kitchen, they can be packaged in resealable plastic bags and frozen. Restaurants can also save more delicate herbs by processing them with extra virgin olive oil and freezing them in ice cube trays. Excess chili peppers and onions can be dried in low-temperature ovens or dehydrators and ground for homemade spices and seasonings. Seeds can also be collected and reused for the following year to save money and to record favorite varieties grown.

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