Yesterday, a few of us from the restaurant had the opportunity to escape city life and drive an hour south of Chicago to The Farm. We have been lucky to connect with an incredible and supportive family in Bourbonnais, IL to exclusively grow and gather for us. They began growing for themselves as a passion project – just because they love it. They weren’t supporting other restaurants or even selling at local farmer’s markets. When our Chef was searching out local black walnuts, he was able to connect with The Farm’s owner, and well, it sparked something great.
We pulled up a gravel drive to a nondescript warehouse sporting rows of vegetables: kohlrabi, lettuces, and herbs. We were immediately greeted by the sweetest couple, the owners of the land. They greeted us, and immediately walked us around the back of the warehouse which sprawled the rest of their treasures – brand new chicks, not even a week old, two hen houses with gorgeous brown, blue and pink eggs, cows hiding from the heat, berries, and much more.
We were there for the berries, specifically black raspberries which had just popped, and the mulberries. Black raspberries are tiny, about half the size of regular raspberries. They grow on bushes with nasty thorns, and we had to compete with some massive spiders to get the best ones – in the center and bottom of the bushes. It was hard to fill up a whole bucket, but that may have been because we ate so many! They are so juicy and have less seeds than other raspberries, which makes them that much easier to eat. The mulberries hang on tall trees, so we had to use rakes to pull the branches down and delicately pick each berry. They are very tender making them easy to crush while picking.
We’re working on making our own herbal teas with whatever is seasonal at the farm. I was able to grab all kinds of different herbs for drying and playing around with different blends: lemon balm, lavender, mint (spear/chocolate/pineapple), juniper berries, black raspberry leaves, purple basil, chamomile, lemon thyme blossoms, lemon verbena, borage, yarrow and red clover.
This was the first of many trips to The Farm, and I already cannot wait to get back there! It is so inspiring to be amongst nature in that way.