What better way to serve up a truly local meal than to grow the ingredients yourself? In our Garden Party series, we’re chatting with Feast On chefs to bring you the ins and outs of starting a kitchen garden. You’ll also get a sneak peek of what they’re growing…coming soon to a restaurant near you!
Find their Feast On profile here!
Tell us about your garden!
The ChocoSoil rooftop Garden is a container garden located at 1131 Saint Clair Avenue West. The roof is 300 square feet with 100 self-rain-watering containers. The garden is a symbolic incarnation of our cradle-to-cradle waste approach, where our organic food scraps, paper towels, coffee grinds, and cacao shells are vermi-composted on site turning our waste into nutrient rich soil. This compost is mixed into our garden soil to grow the mint, lemon balm, edible weeds, flowers and medicinal herbs that are used directly in our chocolate and tortillas production.
For us, this is a unique kind of chef�s garden. It is an exploration of a re-generative ecological gastronomy. By engaging in the ritual of making beautiful soil in Toronto, we have more insight to share in reciprocity and solidarity with our cacao and coffee growing friends in the South and we describe this exchange as horizontal trade. Simply put: ?You cannot have the food of the gods without first having the soil of the gods.?
What are you planting this year?
Every year we grow ingredients that are included in both chocolate and tortillas. This year we will be cultivating lemon balm and four varieties of mint. For our fresh tamales, we are growing a variety of quelites (Mexican word for hardy edible weeds) such as sorrel, lamb�s quarters, dandelion, epazote and chicory, plus hardy herbs such as chives, cilantro and parsley. This hardy melange is the taste atop our 97% local sustainable tortilla project. We plant flowers to add a splash of colour and beauty while supporting the pollinators. This year we are planting zinnias, sunflowers, calendula, borage, nasturtiums and marigolds
Do you have any help?
Byron, the lead ChocoSoil animator, receives seasonal support from interns from our mentorship program. Other ChocoSol staff and curious volunteers help with the soil making, watering, and harvesting. We also receive amazing help in the form of moral support, seeds and advice from Colette Murphy of Urban Harvest, Cathy Nesbitt of Cathy�s Creepy Crawlers, Bob Patterson of the Growing Connection and one of our rural Ontario producers Paul Spence of Lo Maximo Meats .
Is this your first years doing a garden? Have you made any changes? Why?
Soil building and green roofs have had a place at all our previous facilities, but have never reached this scale. For the last two years at this location we researched the ideal layout of containers on the roof while also streamlining our rainwater flow. Moreover we achieved a more integrated approach of our crops with our recipes. This year, we have optimized the positioning of the containers and are focusing on high density planting of edibles and a more streamlined vermicomposting system because we are passionate about re-evolving and re-learning to do this better.
What has been the best part about starting a garden (or really, a farm)?
The best part of the garden is seeing the joy and surprise on the faces of our staff, volunteers and guests at our facility when they experience the rooftop. It is gratifying to harvest herbs, spices, and greens on the roof and then walk 30 feet to our kitchen to enjoy them with our tortilla pizzas and tamales!
How do you showcase what you grow on your menu?
We celebrate our garden on social media. But our favourite way to showcase our garden is on our menu and telling the story to customers at farmers markets puts a smile on many people�s faces. Find us on Facebook and Instagram by searching ?ChocoSol� or follow us on Twitter @ChocoSolTraders.
Any tips for a first time gardener?
No space is too small and making mistakes is a healthy part of the learning journey!