by Christie Peters
If you own a restaurant, plant some herbs this spring.
I’m from Saskatoon where it is snowy for eight months out of the year. When I moved to Vancouver the air felt tropical and moist to me. I’m used to it now but I am still amazed with how easily plants grow here. Even now in February green shoots are poking through the ground. My point is that if you have a restaurant in Vancouver you should grow some of your own herbs and plants anywhere you have space and sun.
I first saw this at Gastropod, on the little deck they have out back they started some plants and herbs. I couldn’t believe how cool that was and how useful. Need a little bit of lemon thyme for that lemon tart special? I’ll go out back at five o’clock and snip some. The deck was in the ally so I always wondered if the customers even knew that the herbs on their plate were grown in house.
When I started working at Chow I was allowed to choose what to plant in the planters on the patio. I love planting stuff but my “yard” here has no sunlight and I was never home, so I was very happy to plant herbs on the sunny patio at work.
I put chives and parsley together in one pot; thyme, lemon thyme and bay together; mint in it’s own pot; rosemary, summer savory and sage; tarragon, oregano, Thai basil; and heirloom tomatoes and basil in the last. I hardly had to do anything and they all grew huge.
It’s super good for food cost because you can just cut what you need. Your herbs are always very fresh; there isn’t a bag going off in the walk in. If you need an herb for a spur of the moment special you have it. There is no need to order the minimum order of a half a pound bag of herbs when you only need a little bit. We still ordered chives and parsley because we use so much but the plants on the patio saved me a lot when we ran out. Does your restaurant pay for rosemary? Rosemary plants grow huge here and stay alive all winter.
The customers on the patio loved seeing the chef in his whites come out to snip some fragrant rosemary mid-service. I think the sight and smell of the herbs makes people hungry. It’s pretty cool to see the cook run out to the patio to collect more savory and within five minutes your lamb with summer savory jus is placed in front of you. Same goes for the bartender who cuts fresh mint for the mojitos.
As a cook I used to love to have an excuse to go outside and the herbs always gave me inspiration for staff meal. As the fall came the plants changed, the thyme and the arugula we planted mid-summer started to flower and I used the flowers for lots of things. All winter long I was still able to use the hearty herbs, and this spring the perennials are going to sprout up on their own bigger and better than last year. The climate is perfect in this city; every restaurant should have buckets, cans, or fancy planters, full of basic herbs. Especially this year, food cost people!