Friday, May 31, 2013
by Samantha Samonte
More and more restaurants have been increasing their use of fresh herbs since the 1990’s. During that era, growing interest on the ecological state of our planet started to pick up and a significant paradigm shift was formed. More and more individuals moved from the excess of the 80’s to learning the ropes of eco-activism, buying organic and sourcing local.
Given that eating is a daily routine, this grassroots shift affected restaurateurs in the city considerably more than any other lifestyle element. Restaurants caught on and later became forerunners in what others may have thought to be just a trend.
When the advantages significantly surpass the disadvantages, why not?
- Growing your own herbs and produce cuts costs and ensures quality ingredients for your customers.
- For those restaurateurs who have already been into the hobby of gardening, this definitely fulfills a passion, as well as cuts costs. Some have even expanded to selling herbs to the diners themselves, as well as being suppliers to neighboring restaurants.
- The Chefs who are able to grow their own herbs find that their customers are enthused by the quality of the produce on their plates!
- Many upscale restaurants develop their menus around the available produce in their garden. Hence, creativity is exercised while the menu remains interesting and never stagnant.
- With the economy these days, people are spending wisely when it comes to dining out. Therefore, diners aim for the best and freshest culinary experience for their money’s worth.
If you are ready to take on such measures, these are a few essentials you’ll need to keep in mind, according to the AICA culinary school.
- To begin with, restaurants need herbs first and foremost for their distinct flavor. Second, for their aroma and third for garnishing. Depending on the type of restaurant you have, you’ll need to know which ones and how much you’ll need daily.
- Yields range between 70% to 100% for each kind. The typical herbs a regular 50-seat restaurant may need include Basil, Thyme, Parsley, Rosemary and Chives.
- The number one herb used in most, if not all restaurant types is Sweet Basil, followed by Thyme and Cilantro. Mint is relatively indispensable to Asian restaurants while Rosemary to Mediterranean ones. Parsley is commonly used for garnishing.
- Since you are doing this for the first time, start with the easy ones. Known to be easiest to grow are Parsley, Chives, Basil and Oregano. The hardest being Thyme and Rosemary.
The Importance of Space
- To yield a pound of each herb, a space approximately 1×1 meters is enough, for each kind. However, for you to constantly yield a pound each week, make sure you have 3×3 meters set up.
Keep Them Organic
- Grow them organic. Don’t skimp on soil quality. Use organic soil. Boost their health by keeping them fertilized with natural additives. If your restaurant serves coffee, don’t throw away your grounds. Mix them with an organic compost.
- Keep close watch for insect infestation. Inspect leaves and stems closely and wash them daily with an organic soapy mixture. Use a spray bottle to spray the soapy solution onto the leaves; this will prevent pests from settling in. If you do find yourself infested, don’t worry. There are all-natural, inexpensive and organic solutions. Namely; Neem Oil, Salt Spray, Mineral Oil, Eucalyptus Oil.
Getting Through Winter
While ideally you’ll want to grow them all year round, the winter season can be tricky. Here are a few factors to keep in mind.
- Sunlight: Plants generally thrive best with lots of light. So make sure they get 6 hours of natural light or at least 14 hours of artificial light.
- Temperature: Keep them where the temperature stays mildly cool to warm. 60 degrees at night to 70 degrees during the day is ideal for budding herbs.
- Soil: Keep an eye on the soil. Keep it moist, and remember not to over water. If you are growing them in pots, clay terra-cotta ones with holes for drainage, are best. Garden soil is a no-no when growing indoor plants, as it often contains fungi, bacteria, insects and nematodes that promote disease. Use an appropriate organic potting soil.
- Choose: Some herbs naturally thrive better indoors. Herbs that are known to hold up longer inside are Parsley, Basil, Sage and Thyme.
Doing this yourself may not be an easy feat and will require added responsibility to your already full plate. However, if you see yourself equipped and ready, the benefits and satisfaction you may reap are exceedingly more than you can cook up!
Samantha Samonte is a writer for Culinary One, a website about culinary careers, cuisines and food. Helping aspiring chefs to find the best cooking schools. She spends the rest of her time living life to the fullest in the company of her laptop and creative writing prowess.