A wrong turn in search for an outdoor spot to eat our picnic yesterday dropped us into the outdoor kitchen garden of 3-star Michelin, award-winning restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa Valley.
My husband is a home gardening enthusiast – and I, a garden-eating enthusiast – so we were thrilled at our luck at this chance encounter to experience world-class methods and perhaps take a few tips home. With a mix of garden envy and awe, we wandered through the carefully laid out plots in between grass pathways. They are producing unbelievably beautiful vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs.
I’ve read that in addition to being a professional test garden, the garden supplies around 30 percent of the The French Laundry’s produce. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful historic building that was once – you guessed it - a french steam laundry.
The restaurant’s organic garden grows many different kinds of vegetables and fruit and also tests unique plants. I walked past artichokes, lettuce, corn, eggplant, three different kinds of basil and other herbs new to me, a variety of peppers and white strawberries. There were chickens and a bee house.
And then there were the tomatoes. We needed to find out what was in this soil to produce those tomatoes. The staff we talked to said they utilize crop rotation and organic compost – with chicken manure. There are perfectly placed drip tubes and tapes.
Enter the greenhouse where tomato vines are giant and tomatoes works of art.
The vines show off their supersized health.
The method of planting close together and meticulously stringing the vines up from top (see white string above) are ideas we will take home.
The ice lettuce with hints of purple is beautiful covering.
The vegetables make room for flowers – many edible and used in the menu.
Freshly picked heirloom tomatoes, presumably for customers that night.
Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry has earned its title as one of the world’s best restaurants. The gardens, without doubt, are world class. Visiting them, you will return home with fresh inspiration for your own garden.
Do you have a favorite public garden?