Behind a wall in a park in San Francisco, there’s a large and thriving vegetable garden. That might not seem like such a big deal. But the park is AT&T Park, the wall is the centerfield wall, and the veggies that grow there are served up to hungry fans of the San Francisco Giants.
At Garden Table, you can start your meal with mixed vegetable antipasti and end it with a chocolate mint smoothie. Everything on the menu has at least one fruit, vegetable, or herb, and many were harvested right here today.
“This sauce right here is an heirloom tomato sauce,” says Head Chef Shennen Brady as she prepares a flatbread pizza. “It’s very pure. It’s just tomatoes cooked down with some herbs.”
Brady says the pizza is just fresh dough, mozzarella, and tomatoes from the garden.
“I think the tomato speaks for itself,” Brady says. “If you add too much to it you actually take the flavor out. It’s overpowering. So if you have a beautiful tomato like that you keep it simple.”
The pizza also has an unusual topping: flowers. I had to ask how baseball fans react to flowers on pizza.
“So far, so good,” Brady says. “People are actually really loving it. I guess they’re coming here expecting something a little bit unusual.”
The garden is owned by Bon Appetit, which manages all of AT&T Park’s concessions. President Fedele Bauccio and Giants’ left-fielder Hunter Pence came up with the idea over dinner two years ago. Pence is known for being the team health nut. He wanted a place in the park that was devoted to well-being and sustainability.
“The first day that the garden was officially open, Hunter Pence – who is the left fielder for the Giants, and a very, very nice guy, and a huge fan of kale salads – hit a home run directly into a tower of kale,” says Killian Higgins, manager of premium food services at AT&T Park.
Everything in the garden is grown in either raised beds or aeroponic towers, which use 95% less water than traditional gardening methods. The seeds are fertilized with used coffee grounds from Peets.
“When you make coffee in the morning, whether you use a French press or a Mr. Coffee, that pile of wet grounds that you have at the end? That’s what’s used,” says Higgins.
San Francisco’s growing season goes year-round. So even after the games end, the garden will continue on. Its tenders will harvest the produce and use it for private events, staff lunches, and donations to the local food bank. And next spring, when the Giants return to the ballpark, they may just see a field of greens cropping up over the centerfield wall.