The varieties of enjoyment that people get from the months of summer are difficult to categorize into a top ten list. If they could be whittled down, the freshness of the season and the food we enjoy would top many a list. As restaurant owners and chefs know, the meals of summer always seem fresher, more vibrant and colorful on the plate, more flavorful on the palate, and more enjoyable to prepare. I have never met a chef who didn’t enjoy a visit to a local farmers market, neighborhood vegetable stand, or a vegetable patch that a friend shares to cultivate produce for complimentary meals.
A fast growing trend in eateries across the country is the potted herb garden. Not every restaurant has the acreage to plant an actual garden of herbs on the property. However, if you are fortunate to have the space, plant it with an abundance of herbs and lettuces. The perceived value for the customers is monumental and the actual value will be very attractive to your accounting department when your produce bill dips a bit because you are growing your own herbs.
In one of my restaurants I had a wonderful garden that produced more herbs than I would ever use. I eventually became too busy to cultivate the crop on a regular basis but needed the produce. I made a deal with the local garden club. A small plaque in the center of the picket fenced in space simple read "This garden maintained by the Cottagewood Garden Club. The weed and feed program” I made a deal with the gardeners; every Wednesday they would weed the garden and I would feed them. It was a win – win situation.
Of course, not everyone has a small plot of land that can be dedicated to growing basil, mint, and dill. But tat doesn’t mean you are going to be summoned to the produce list for the rest of the season. Most herbs grow nicely in pots. And, if you have any space outside, whether on the sidewalk, a patio, or a walkway, a pot full of herbs not only looks great, and is aromatic, but can be snipped at will and added to the chef’s creations.
Aside from outside pots and planters, herbs can be propagated in pots and container throughout your restaurant. They grow like weeds- the more they’re snipped, the more abundant they become.
And, nothing beats watching a chef go to a planter, plot, or pot and snip a little basil, oregano, and thyme and moments later deliver the pasta with fresh tomato sauce to your table.
This summer, use the weed and feed philosophy. Freshness abounds in the perceived value of a large container of herbs by your front door. And, your chef will thank you for the suggestion.