By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
In 2001, when my boys were toddlers I read This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow. Considered the mother of the “eat locally” paradigm (other than Alice Waters, of course), the nutrition professor tracked a year of eating locally and organically with the seasons. If she’d been southern California it might have been easy. But she was working with the short growing season on the Hudson River not far from New York City. She was convincing with her experience, made it sound like an adventure. So, to the best of my ability, I pursued a similar lifestyle in Northeast Ohio.
Imagine if I’d had the budget for an Urban Cultivator, a fully automated kitchen garden? I love kitchen toys and this is the ultimate … a climate-controlled greenhouse that slides under the kitchen counter. Looking a bit like a wine mini-fridge, the fully plumbed appliance makes it possible to have fresh herbs, greens and veggies year ‘round without leaving the kitchen. Think Caprese salad with just-picked basil?! In winter.
I hadn’t heard of the appliance until this year, but the Urban Cultivator has been around almost 20 years. Its precursor was a “box” for growing medicinal cannabis. In an ironic twist, growers wanted a product for kitchen gardens and so a new company was born.
Chefs were interested because they could control quality and source expensive, hard-to-find herbs and microgreens, says Tarren Wolfe, company spokesperson. (No relation to this blogger.) He recommends leaf lettuces, sunflower sprouts, micro-arugula and more. “You can go beyond your everyday, average salad with a far more nutritional product.”
“When you pick something you lose quality and up to 50 percent of nutritional value in 24 hours,” says Wolfe. “With the Urban Cultivator you can do it cheaper and get a tastier, healthier product.”
The mini-greenhouses, which hold up to four flats of plants, are self-contained and self-regulating. They top up watering reservoirs and control heat, light and humidity. I’d be growing parsley, basil, lemon thyme, mint and so much more if only I had $2,500 to add one to my current kitchen. The restaurant version is much bigger and costs closer to $10,000.