Caleb and Deirdre have a unique take on the subject: they grow about 75% of the produce used in their restaurant—which is about as local as it gets.
With the Obamas’ recent visit to Blue Hill restaurant in New York, and Michelle’s White House garden in full bloom, the topic of locally-grown produce has never been hotter.
But for many, the idea of growing your own vegetables is daunting, if not seemingly impossible.
Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, the owners of Osteria Pane E Salute, a restaurant and wine bar in Woodstock, Vermont and the authors of In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love and Libation, A Bitter Alchemy, are veritable experts on the subject and grow 75% of the produce they use in their restaurant. When asked what their five tips would be to growing your own, this is what they had to say:
1. Grow something you like that you can’t easily find locally. For example: We love radicchio, but I can’t find any grown within easy local reach. It’s readily available through our produce purveyor, but the source isn’t anywhere near us. And we want to try to raise several varieties of radicchio, so that we can offer an unusual selection at our restaurant, not to mention at our own table. Growing different varieties contributes to plant diversification and healthy soil, lessening the effects of monoculture.
2. Water. Gardening gold for vegetables. If it hasn’t rained for two days, start watering every day. Just remember to water the ground, not the plant, and if you can, water after sunset. Even right before you go to bed is best, when the soil is cooler and more able to saturate and retain the water. Don’t drown everything, just dampen the soil well. Collect water in a bucket off your roof, or out in the open to help conserve water from the well or reservoir. And when you wash that lettuce, save that water for your plants.