Don't cook produce from the Plant


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pink oyster mushrooms from The Plant
  • Mike Sula
  • Pink oyster mushrooms from the Plant
Two and a half years ago when I first wrote about the Plant, the decommissioned four-story Back of the Yards meat processing plant that industrial designer John Edel wanted to convert into the city's first vertical farm, there were two experimental growing beds filled with some sickly-looking basil, fed by the nutrients generated from the processed waste of 70 captive tilapia. The Plant and its various food-producing tenants have come a long way since then, and one of the most tangible developments of this growth is that you can now buy food grown inside the Plant every Sunday at the Logan Square Farmers Market.

That's right. Plants grown in the Plant, in recycled poop. Just look at this gorgeous bowl of greens:

mixed green from The Plant

You don't want to do any sort of cooking with this mixture of shrubbery. It's almost a shame to even dress it with oil and vinegar, as it's a riot of distinct flavors and textures in each bite: peppery, buttery, crunchy and tender, from meaty purple-veined leaves to feathery wisps of greenery. They taste like they were pulled from the dirt on a sunny, late April morning.

You will want to apply a bit of heat and butter to the the otherwordly fungi being grown there. Some claim that the pink-tinged oyster mushrooms pictured above taste like bacon, but that's nonsense inasmuch as many mushrooms taste like meat. The hairy lion's mane mushrooms, on the other hand, really do have the faint taste of shellfish when they're cooked. Slice them up. Melt some butter in the skillet, toss them around for a minute or two, sprinkle with salt, then eat. Both varieties have a very short shelf life, so do it as soon as you get them home.

Lions Mane mushroom from The Plant

Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.


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