Earlier this Spring while I was researching vegetable gardening in Chicago, I stumbled across the opportunity to tour Rick Bayless’s garden. If you don’t know who Rick Bayless is, he’s a well known chef in Chicago specializing in Mexican food and the host of the PBS series Mexico – One Plate at a Time. He’s really elevated Mexican cuisine with his restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
The Bayless’s live in Bucktown, a Chicago neighborhood northwest of downtown. My first apartment in Chicago is right around the corner from their home. They own three city lots (!!!), with two buildings (one they live in and the second they rent out) and the middle lot is all garden. The garden includes a chicken coop, bee hive, small fish pond, patio, grape covered pergola, fire pit and Rick’s outdoor kitchen you see on his cooking show. As well flowers, plants and vegetables everywhere!
When the grapes are ripe they are used at Rick’s restaurants, mostly in desserts.
The garden directly behind the Bayless’s home is where things really get special. The tour was led by the head gardener, Bill Shores. The raised beds are custom made of Bill’s design. They are sleek, minimal and maximize production in a small space. They mostly grow lettuces, but also lots of edible flowers, butternut squash, beans and herbs. The garden produces a lot of food. Obviously it can’t supply all of a restaurant’s food, but in the summer months it produces the majority of the salad greens, mostly for Topolobampo.
This space is at the back of the garden and its filled with new plants waiting to be planted and at the end in the back corner is the compost.
Lots and lots of mint! Think of all the mint tea and mojitos!
This dill is planted to attract pollinating bees.
Busy bee doing its thing!
On the 2nd floor of the Bayless’s home is a greenhouse. A lot of the plants move up there during the winter.
The tour lasted just over an hour and was very inspiring to see how much can be done in a compact space. Granted the Bayless’s have triple the space what most Chicagoans have, but there were a ton of ideas all around.