Kitchen Tested


Produce so locally grown, it’s harvested from your own kitchen—that’s the promise of SproutsIO, a new app-controlled, soil-free indoor growing system that only requires watering about once a month. The idea germinated at the MIT Media Lab, but founder Jennifer Broutin Farah field-tested the device in Barbara Lynch’s kitchens at No. 9 Park and Menton. “A lot of the things we grew with them were our first time growing it,” Farah says. “Everything they wanted was micro—micro cherbil, micro cress, micro carrots. There was a great need for the chefs as a lot of local farmers don’t want to grow smaller, more delicate produce, because by the time it gets to the restaurants it’s damaged.”

What’s more, the chefs were able to tailor the produce to their palates, as in the case of Menton saucier Brian Krieger, who dialed up the flavor of peppercress to top Menton’s tortellini en brodo. “The first time we grew it, it was peppery, but not peppery enough,” Farah says. “By the third time, we had changed the lighting, adjusted the nutrients, and then it really got to that peppery flavor.” Only a few toques were officially tapped to test out SproutsIO—currently priced at $599 in a Kickstarter campaign that continues through Oct. 19—but Krieger was far from the only fan in the kitchen. “Brian gave us a call and was like, ‘Produce is missing!’ ” Farah recalls with a laugh. The device’s camera, used to monitor plant growth, also captured the culprits in action. “Brian has tattoos all up his arms, and the hands coming in didn’t have tattoos on them. So he asked, and some of the other chefs from [Lynch’s neighboring spots] Sportello and Drink said, ‘Yeah, we started borrowing it for some of our dishes,’ ” Farah explains. “At first, they were like, ‘What is going on? What is this?’ And then by the end of it we had the chefs stealing from one another. That was something we were really proud of.”

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