By CINDY LADAGE
GLENCOE, Ill. — A little bit of “Top Chef” is going on at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Set on 385 acres and featuring three islands, one of the big draws of this busy garden is during the summer months and into October on most weekends, it has a local chef showing how to make the best of the fruits and vegetables from summer’s bounty.
The Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden is where the Chicago Botanic Garden sets this educational series. Chefs plan menus and show visitors how to prepare herbs, peppers, grapes, apples and more into healthy meal choices. These are just a few of the 400 edible plants grown in the Regenstein garden.
One example was from the July 13 show; Chef Michael Kingsley of Soundings Restaurant, located at the Shedd Aquarium, demonstrated how to prepare Smoked Gouda Turkey Burgers with crispy bread, butter pickles and zesty garlic pickle relish.
Besides the chef demonstrations, staff and volunteers hold educational workshops for gardeners. At the Regenstein Center they offer insight into how to grow berries, large fruits, vegetables and herbs for the climate of Chicago’s and the surrounding area’s gardens.
While many of the plants in the Regenstein Center reflect a food use, there is also a beautiful Bonsai garden with more than 200 grown in one of 27 styles. Eighty-five trees were selected for display and they are rotated from April to October in the courtyards.
Tree choices for the Bonsai exhibit include wisteria, magnolias bougainvilleas, jasmine, maples, gingkoes and the traditional pines and conifers. Both a Chinese and Japanese art, Bonsai consists of masters taking a selected tree and forming it into a sculpture by pruning the branches and roots, pinching back the new growth and wiring and shaping tree forms. The Regenstein Center also has a bulb garden.
One wonderful aspect of the garden is it is accessible to all. There is disabled parking and most garden buildings and gardens are accessible to wheelchairs, plus there is also a tram tour accessible to everyone.
Visitors can picnic in the area adjacent to the grounds, or there is also the garden café and grille. The Chicago Botanic Garden has been open more than 40 years and can boast 50,000 members – the largest membership of any U.S. botanic garden. It has nine laboratories that focus on conserving plants through banking seeds, restoring habitats and protecting endangered plant species and developing new ones.
The garden began as a flower and horticultural show hosted by the Chicago Horticultural Society, founded in 1890.
The Society was inactive for a time, then regained its footing in 1942. It was in 1962 it agreed to help with the beginnings of the garden, which broke ground in 1965 and opened in 1972.
Today the garden is overseen by a public-private partnership. It is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and operated by the Chicago Horticultural Society. The Chicago Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022.
For information, call 847-835-5440 or log onto www.chicagobotanic.org/info