Agriculture, Deli

Zingerman’s Deli: We’re Growing a New Vision for Our Edible Landscape

Crab apples
Red kale

That’s just some of what’s growing in the garden beds at Zingerman’s Deli, and this year I’m excited to announce that we have two people tending our edible landscape. Jen Harris, who’s one of our catering events captains, and Alex Wilkerson, one of our Deli Retail specialty food sales people, have been busy getting all the beds planted and weeded the past few weeks.

Even more so than in years past, we want to be the flowering gem that lures you in amidst all of the construction the city has begun in order to complete the street beautification project. (If you hadn’t heard all of Detroit Street and a section of Fifth Avenue near the Deli is being removed and replaced this year. It will be beautiful when it’s done, but in the meantime it’s a little messy!).

Deli staffers Jen Harris and Alex Wilkerson are tending our edible landscape at the Deli

The Deli had its first garden revitalization back in 2009 when our staff member Jacqueline wrote her vision for the Deli’s first ever “Edible Landscape”. Back then our garden beds were pretty standard fare—there were plantings of fairly low-maintenance bushes, and things that looked ok, but weren’t very interesting. I very clearly remember the day that Jacqueline and I sat in the Deli’s Next Door cafe, and she told me about her vision for planting edible things. She knew we could do improve the garden and help educate staff and guests about where our food comes from. She talked about how fun it is to see things growing, have the Deli staff help out, and be able to eat and use what we grow. One of the lines from her vision was

 Raising vegetables and other edibles at the Deli offers an opportunity to demonstrate a sustainable, productive, and beautiful use of landscaping.

Jacqueline made her vision come alive—she lead a group of staff, helping teach and share information—and she completely changed the landscaping at the Deli for the better. Now nine years later, we are working on a new vision to take us into the future, but the seed that Jacqueline planted has lived on. We are continuing to focus on edible and bee- and butterfly- friendly plantings at the Deli, and we’ve also expanded the growing space to the roof of the atrium (the area where the Deli salad case stands, and where sandwich orders are taken). It’s a fairly large, flat white roof, with easy access from our deck seating area. We’ve utilized the 50-gallon olive oil barrels that we purchase from California and turned them into planters that now hold jalapeno peppers, basil, lettuce, and amaranth. The roof plantings are one of those things that make me very happy—we’re able to reduce our waste by reusing those barrels and expand the green space as well as plant things that we can use in one of our most popular seasonal items of the year: jalapeno peaches.

When you come by the Deli, chances are you’ll see Jen, Alex, or me tending the gardens— weeding, harvesting, mulching, etc. Come say hi, ask us about what is growing, and share your favorite gardening story. We love sharing ideas for how to improve the gardens, or pulling off a few leaves so you can smell them to get a sense of the flavor potential in the herbs and flowers we are growing.