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Blog Thu May 28 2009

Edible Garden in Logan

Ben's Kale
I love going to my friend Ben's. His front yard is almost entirely an edible garden. And it's large. His small house is so far back on the lot that you can see his neighbor's back door while sitting, facing forward, on his front porch. Ben once joked that he ate his breakfast as he walked off through the front yard in the morning. Except I wasn't sure if he was really joking. I dropped in on Ben for a BBQ and took a peek at how this year's garden was developing.

Ben Prepping the Fire PitLast year there was so much growing that it seemed tricky to walk among the veggies. So this year, Ben constructed raised wooden containers with a floor of WeedBlock landscaping fabric. This is where he's moved the kale that had taken it upon itself to come back from last year. He's growing four types of beans under a pyramid-shaped trellis. (Ben directs NeighborSpace, a land trust for community gardens. The organization ran a fun campaign, One Seed Chicago, where it urged people across Chicago to vote for one seed to get excited about. This year, the bean won, and NeighborSpace is mailing out free packets of donated Blue Lake Pole green bean seeds for us to plant.) In Ben's other containers, markers helped me identify okra, radishes, squash and beets, which were all, at the very least, sprouting quite strong. Chives had flowered, and apples from two trees were making their small but forthcoming appearances.

Grillmaster and his nicely finished veggiesIt wasn't long before there was a hot grill with veggies on it. Ben had started a fire with ripped newspaper and small twigs in place of lighter fluid. Some ten minutes later, he was stacking on black coals two fist-fulls at a time. Ben's sweetie brought out a cutting board, knife and veggies to prep, and had begun slicing, smashing garlic and mixing it all about. Sliced eggplant, zucchini, yellow bell peppers, red onions tossed in the garlic grilled brilliantly. It got chopped up to put inside soft tortillas. I slathered mine with guacamole and a local brand of chipotle salsa. Grilled asparagus, brilliantly in season, tasted bright and cheerful with lemon, white balsamic, salt, pepper, perhaps some oil. I grilled a veggie burger until deep, black grill lines came though and finished it with whole grain bread covered in more salsa and guacamole. Someone had made a tasty salad with crunchy celery, soft guacamole and cilantro that combined crunchy and creamy.

When the food was ready, we mingled and soaked up relaxing seats on a bleacher-esque porch big enough to hold a small gathering. Ben's fire pit was going strong. We'd brought in downed branches that someone had left in the alley for firewood. As I left, Ben gave me a handful of kale, still young and tender. I munched on piece after piece until it was all gone after walking just two blocks.
Bean Trellis

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Illinois Master Gardener / May 28, 2009 8:37 AM

What an amazing garden! It utilizes so creatively and constructively every available space to produce what looks like one of the greenest and most welcome spaces around!

Most people probably do not know that this is possible in the city! It is a charming and sustainable use of space!

Thanks for sharing this lovely edible Chicago garden, Chris.

Michelle / May 28, 2009 10:50 AM

Definately inspirational! I think I'll move my strawberries to the front lawn where they can spread themselves out to their hearts content.

That bean pyramind is cool looking and functional. Bravo!

Cassie / May 28, 2009 1:04 PM

Lovely garden and story! Made me wish I could have been there.

Bob / May 29, 2009 12:33 PM

Thanks, Chris, for sharing this information about Ben's front yard being an Edible Garden.

A Cultural and an Aesthetic Inspiration!

Chicago Garden / June 4, 2009 4:50 PM

Cool entry.
Ben gave a group of garden blogging friends of mine a tour of Gingko Organic Community Garden last weekend. He had mentioned you had come over for a BBQ and ended up writing about his garden w/out him knowing. Glad I ended up finding the post. Ben's place is awesome. How do I get invited?

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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