Summer is in full swing here in Chicago. The warm weather, abundant sunshine (and the occasional summer shower) have created the perfect conditions for the plants in our greenhouse to thrive.
Chief Culinary Officer and Head Chef Devon Quinn take us inside the greenhouse for a sneak-peek into what you can expect to see on your plate this season.
What is the TPG Team currently growing in the greenhouse?
“We are really lucky with the greenhouse because we are able to mimic perfect conditions so that produce is in season all year long. I’m coming up on my first harvest of Chicago figs, even though figs are usually a September/October thing if you are growing outdoors. Herbs in general, most of them are annual plants so they only last one season, but when you grow in a greenhouse I have some annual plants that are 5 and a half years old or so and still really producing.”
“Seasonality in a greenhouse is very different from our outdoor gardens, but I try to keep a really nice rotation of things throughout so we always have ingredients. A lot of the things we grow are universal in flavor. For example, I grow a lot of things that have citrus and lemon tones to them such as lemon verbena, lemon thyme, and lemon balm.”
What produce are you incorporating into the menu creation right now?
“The gardens and greenhouse supply all of the herbs and all of the garnishes that we use in the summer, and certainly some vegetables too. Things that grow well inside the greenhouse are mostly nightshades. Tomatoes and peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, things like that. A lot of the greens as well… we grow a lot of arugula and other spicy greens like mustard and such which I really like as a garnish. Not only are they beautiful but functional and add an element of spiciness to whatever dish it is that you are putting it on.”
“For the last year and a half since Covid, it has also supplied all of my needs for my catering company in terms of herbs and garnishes”
What are you excited about this season? Anything that is going to be coming into season in the month of July that you will be excited to use?
“Right now we are in the middle of a harvest of beautiful Sungold tomatoes and things like that. For a number of years, I have been trying to grow certain species of peppers and have finally become successful. Aji amarillos, for example, took me a couple of years to find the right placement in my greenhouse to really get them to produce. We only usually get them in the dry form here in Chicago, so to have unique peppers that you can’t find in the Chicago market is really exciting.”
“Angelica is a wild celery that we are growing that is just coming to its end and starting to flower and seed. We use the seeds and flowers to produce bitters for our beverage program. It gives a really nice unique flavor that is really interesting. Really interesting herbal notes and it kind of dances on your tongue that most people haven’t tasted. I try to find things that are not only delicious but also have some sort of interesting value to it.”
“A couple of other things that I am growing right now and really experimenting with are a couple of Southeast-Asian herbs, one of them being fish herb or fish mint. We also have a couple of Japanese plum trees that need to cross-fertilize and have variety. Same as my American Elders. I’m excited that the little cones on my sumac are starting to form. We are able to use fresh sumac which you can usually only get as a dry form which is really exciting. I can ramble on all day!”
We hope that you enjoyed getting an inside look into what is growing in our greenhouse. Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes footage and stay tuned for next month’s post when we take a deeper look into Chef Devon’s philosophy and future plans for the growing program.
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