Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rick Bayless's Garden

One of the many delights of the Chicago Spring Fling was our visit to Rick and Deann Bayless's garden. I was thrilled when I heard we would visit it because I'm a big fan of their Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, and Rick's PBS program "Mexico, One Plate at a Time". Jeff and I had dinner at Frontera Grill the night before CSF started and as usual, we were not disappointed. Truly some of the best Mexican food in the U.S. comes out of their kitchen!

So it's no surprise that the focus of this garden is their vegetable/herb plot. It basically takes up the entire back of their row house. (Their backyard is comprised of three row house lots, with the other two lots containing a deck, a pond, the grill area, ornamental plantings, and a garage.) What an operation the vegetable garden is!

The Bayless's have a full time gardening consultant, Bill Shores, seen above explaining how he grows the micro-greens. He gave a really fascinating talk about how the garden is used for commercial purposes, supplying both restaurants with about $20,000 worth of produce a year. Can you imagine? The garden was still producing what we normally grow in the winter and early spring in the South (so I wasn't able to nab any epazote seeds as a friend down here wanted me to do!).

There are also numerous container plantings, many of which also house edible plants. Below are plantings of vining spinach with angelonia for a splash of color. And a fig tree in a pot.

And here's a lovely little deck for relaxing.

You Chicago area gardeners should check out the upcoming (June 14) 'Festival of the One True Taste', a series of events to benefit the Frontera Farmer Foundation. From their website: "The Frontera Farmer Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting small, sustainable farms serving the Chicago area by providing them with capital development grants." One event is a sort of farmers market where local farmers offer their specialties at the restaurant. The other event is a six course dinner. Yum, I would be there if I could!

And thanks again to the CSF organizers!


  1. My eyes read "Rick" but my mind read "Skip". I thought to myself, "What? Skip Bayless has a garden?" Rick and Skip are brothers, you probably know that already. Skip is a well-known sports journalist and does ESPN TV. Very interesting post.

  2. It was a pleasure to meet you this weekend, Jean. I even had a short visit with your husband at dinner one night--sounds like he enjoyed himself as well. Thank you for featuring the Rick Bayless garden. I opted not to go, not realizing what I would be missing! There was so much to see and do this weekend it was hard to take it all in. Next year I'm going to sign up for everything! And I'm envious of that yummy tomato; here in Illinois it will be several months before we see our first ripe one.

  3. That was quite a garden, full of interesting salad greens. I was surprised that Bill said he could grow them all summer long!

  4. Jean, I liked this garden...especially the multi-levels and how they combined the entertaining, cooking, growing areas...Row house lots must be smaller then I imagined! This space doesn't look especially large, but a lot was packed into it. Thanks for the information on the foundation...very interesting...I've eaten at Topolobampo and enjoyed the food very much. Gail

  5. What a pleasure seeing your pictures and Rick's garden, yet another view. Your tomato in the previous post looks yummy. Some of mine remain to be planted.

  6. I love how you captured his garden--I didn't take "representative" photos, as it turns out. You also saw details I missed!

  7. Jean I agree with Monica - great photos of the Bayless garden. I was amazed by how much food they're growing in the small space. What a treat this tour was. I've never eaten at either of Rick's restaurants - hard to get my downtown-commuting husband back into the city when he's not working. . . one of these days I might be able to talk him into it!


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