From the glass germinator to the vertical vegetable garden: planting and harvesting in the kitchen is constantly taking on new forms. First came urban gardening and now a new lifestyle trend is unfolding.
What we normally find in private kitchens in the city are at the most shoots grown in a special glass, which need to be regularly watered, shaken and emptied out. Chives, mint and basil also grow in pots on the windowsill or worktop but when kept indoors, these mass-produced herbs can become quite straggly. Now, however, a new trend called ‘kitchen farming’ is emerging.
Didn’t the kitchen recently become the new status symbol and heart of a modern home environment and joie de vivre? The all-round room for cooking, enjoyment and well-being? And now it’s supposed to make room for the garden too? That sounds like fake news or downright nonsense. Far from it! Anyone who googles ‘kitchen farming’ will see countless tips and examples – and a photo gallery: Plant bags hanging on kitchen walls, together with their contents; greenery in pots, lined up on shelves or swinging from the ceiling; collapsible frames known as ‘vertical gardens’, in which edible plants are grown on special sponges; and even images of additional furnishings which kitchen manufacturers (such as Next125) offer for planting. Modern design for the cultivation of vegetables and the like in the room in which they are prepared and consumed. The renowned German designer Werner Aisslinger brought this vision to life a few years ago in a villa in Berlin. His futuristic kitchen was a greenhouse-like biotope. Not only was food cooked there, but it was also planted, grown and harvested. Edible mushrooms grew on recycled coffee grounds and the pièce de résistance in the room was an aquarium full of fish. Their excrement provided fertiliser for a vegetable patch connected to the water circuit that was filled with all kinds of lettuces, herbs and vegetables. Sustainability, resource conservation, waste prevention, recycling and upcycling are what give Aisslinger his design ideas. He doesn’t see the kitchen of the future as a ‘design spaceship’, but as a biological alchemy chamber: ‘Rooms change as lifestyle habits evolve. Kitchen farming is the counterproject to a kitchen in which the appliances should communicate with each other.’
Knowledge of aquaponics and hydroculture makes his vision possible – procedures which link fish breeding and edible plant cultivation techniques by means of hydroculture. Farming in water instead of in the ground is actually an age-old practice. The floating gardens of the Aztecs or in Thailand are just a couple of examples. If you want to see exactly how aquaculture works, look it up on the Internet! There just isn’t room to explain it in this article. The question remains as to why on earth urban dwellers should want to create a garden in their kitchen when the local supermarket offers everything they need to satisfy their appetite and whims. It can’t just be the increasingly widespread nutritionally-aware vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. The limbic system is probably to blame. There’s something archaic about harvesting what you’ve planted yourself. A primal instinct. The brain stem hasn’t forgotten that we were once hunters and above all gatherers – even though today that has less to do with the search for food. But that’s an entirely different matter. Of course, the idea of self-sufficiency in the city isn’t entirely utopian. For over a decade it has been the root of a widespread trend – urban gardening: An inner-city Bohemian society farms inner-city waste land such as the Prinzessinnengärten in Berlin-Kreuzberg, some upon request and others as if they were a guerilla army on a mission. More and more tomato plants and even strawberries can be seen springing up on balconies alongside herbs. Many take on an allotment with like-minded people – the petit bourgeois mentality is a thing of the past. In this respect, kitchen farming has a chance of becoming the next lifestyle trend.
Photos: Studio Aisslinger / Mirjam Fuscella & Daniele Manduzio, Neofarms
Texts: Barbara Friedrich