If aeroponic gardening utilizes a natural source of a broad spectrum of minerals and trace elements, it allows nutrient-dense food to be available in areas that might otherwise be food deserts.
For instance, the Chicago O'Hare airport recently introduced vertical towers to make freshly harvested, locally grown produce available to the airport's restaurants right in the terminals where they are served. With practically no time or distance from plant to plate, fruits and vegetables maintain more of their nutrients. You can grow a large variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruits including everything from mesclun to melons. It’s a highly efficient use of space and resources as the towers recycle water and consequently use considerably less water than an in-ground garden. Without the need for refrigeration, your produce could hardly be fresher. It can be a great way to grow nutrient dense food in a very small space from backyard to rooftop.
John Mooney, owner of Manhattan restaurant Bell Book and Candle, has been one of the primary pioneers of aeroponic vertical gardening as the first chef in the U.S. to bring food from “rooftop to table.” What Mooney grows on an ordinary city rooftop just up the stairs from the Greenwich Village dining room is bountiful enough to offer dishes such as a “living-leaf salad” to an 80-seat restaurant for ten months a year.
Aeroponics is not meant to replace community supported agriculture (CSAs), farmer’s markets, or other community-based means of growing fresh produce, but intended to increase accessibility of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. It offers another creative alternative for people to eat fresh and local and know exactly where their food is coming from. It is especially great for urbanites who don’t have traditional garden spaces or who are concerned about the environmental toxicity of city soils. This method of growing can be ideal for school settings, enlivening the curriculum by inviting children to participate in learning how to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables, which can be used for school lunches.
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Gaea Campe is a writer and recent graduate of Whitman College’s Environmental Humanities Program.
On Bell, Book and Candle restaurant in Manhattan: