With plenty of access to land, club and resort chefs are planting chef’s gardens to grow herbs, vegetables and more.
A chef’s garden allows club chefs to not only add more highly seasonal ingredients to menus, but also showcase the bounty of what the club’s property can produce.
Chef’s gardens range in size. They can be as small as a few pots outside the kitchen door or planted in a multi-acre plot (see Seeds of Culinary Change at The Clubs at Houston Oaks). Regardless of size, these gardens inspire a club’s culinary creativity and add incredible freshness and cache to menus.
For chefs considering adding a chef’s garden, consider the following:
- Labor. First, determine who will be responsible for the garden. Does the chef, or another member of the culinary team have a green thumb and the desire and dedication to tend a garden? Will anyone from the grounds or agronomy departments be available to help? What about maintenance? At some clubs, members might even want to get in on the action. In all cases though chef’s gardens succeed when clubs take a calculated team approach.
- Land. Second, what land resources are available? Be sure to check with the grounds department and the board before planting, but there’s usually plenty of open green space that can be enhanced with a garden and some benches. If there is no land available, consider pots, raised beds and vertical gardens. For city clubs, rooftops are often a great place to plant a garden (see Jonathan Club has a Passion for Quality). Generally speaking, the closer the chef’s garden is to the kitchen, the more likely it is to be used and seen as an asset by members.
- Tools. Now that the garden plot is set, where will you get all the supplies needed? From small hand shovels to large rototillers, irrigation to harvesting tools, make sure your equipment is in order. This is when collaborating with the grounds and greens teams can be most effective. They frequently have many of the tools you will need and are often eager to help new projects succeed.
- Crops. Once the location is chosen its time to figure out what to grow. A soil test should be done to test for nutrient content and the soil amended. You can do a homemade soil test for quick results or send to the local cooperative extension office. Again, tapping into the expertise of your club’s grounds team will be beneficial. Then you can talk through what crops might work best on menus or be canned, pickled or preserved and showcased throughout the year.
Some items will yield good crops quickly, like fresh herbs, lettuces, and tomatoes. Others may take longer to figure out like heirloom vegetables or specialty greens. There are other crop considerations, too, like rotating for better soil nutrient content and life, weed control, and pest control. Finally is the garden 100% organic or not?
A chef’s garden can be a fantastic asset for the kitchen and club if it’s well planned, highly managed, and wholly utilized.