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Heirloom vegetables and Illinois Farmer's Markets...  

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Hello Rick :) Thanks so much for taking the time to share, not only your knowledge with us...but also your passion. Thanks!

I live in a southern suburb of Chicago and will be landscaping the backyard, starting this spring. I don't have much room to set aside for a dedicated garden. But I was planning on integrating vegetables and herbs throughout the "natural" set landscaping.

Because of my limited amount of space and knowledge/experience with vegetables, I was wondering if you could offer any suggestions for varieties of vegetables or herbs that are exceptional in flavor. I've read that your a fan of many heirloom vegetables and wondered if you have any favorites that we may be able to try and grow at our homes. Is there anything that an Illinois garden shouldn't be without?


I have also been trying to find some of the Farmer's Markets in my area as well. I thought I would post some links that I've recently found useful searching out Illinois Farmer's Markets.


If anyone has recommendations for buying FRESH farm raised meats in the Illinois area...I would love to hear your suggestions...my search results, for fresh meats and eggs in Illinois hasn't been as fruitful :crazy: as my quest to find fresh vegetables and markets in Illinois.


Thank you all for any comments/suggestions...

...and thanks to Chef Rick Bayless for sharing a bit of yourself with us:D

Happy Eating all!

dan
post #2 of 2
Dear Dan:


Number one, I'm a fan of container gardening, especially in small space. I would grow some compact tomatoes in large (5-gallon-size) pots, being careful to add fresh compost every couple of weeks during the first half of the summer. Remember: pots dry out much quicker than the ground, so you'll have to water them regularly (during the final stages of ripening, the tomatoes don't want much water). There are so many different tomatoes to chose from, that I recommend your checking out the Seeds of Change or Johnny's Select Seeds catalogs to discover what might be right for you (I love costoluto genovese tomatoes, but they grow quite tall). Don't forget that tomatoes like full sun, so put them in a sunny spot.

As far as edible landscaping goes, I love to plant borders of multicolored Swiss chard. It's very easy to grow, you can harvest the larger outer leaves of it continually all season and it looks beautiful. I also like to plant basil around the garden (there are many decorative basils, but my favorite for cooking is still the classic genovese basil). And edible flowers, while they aren't much more than decoration, are fun and beautiful: try dianthus, lemon gem marigolds and bachelor buttons.

Two edible flowers that make a difference in the kitchen are squash blossoms and scarlet runner bean flowers. You'll want to trellis the squash along a fence or back wall and let the runner beans grow up a 6- or 7-foot-high teepee of bamboo anywhere in the garden you want height. I typically grow butternut squash because it makes lots of blossoms and the fruit is so delicious. Pick most, but not all of the male blossoms, leaving a few to pollinate the females and produce fruit. Use the blossoms to make soup or a filling for quesadillas. Scarlet runner beans produce great gobs of dark red flowers, which are scrambled in eggs in Mexico (blanch them briefly first); let the beans mature until the plant begins to die in the fall, then harvest them, shell them and simmer them until tender. They're often eaten with mole.

Also, in small garden, especially in the spring and fall, I always recommend planting a salad greens mix like the ones offered by Shepherds. You can pick the tender young mesclun greens after about 4 weeks growing, meaning that the ground is then ready for another crop.

Hope this helps!
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