Urban gardening taking off at O'Hare

September 15, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Swiss chard, red habanero peppers, and onion chives are just a few of the 44 different types of organic herbs and vegetables growing in the middle of busy O'Hare Airport. The garden is tucked in the rotunda building, the area that connects terminals 2 and 3. Aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino hopes it will become a calming oasis for weary travelers.

"It's a constant opportunity to cultivate, educate and bring kind of a tranquil area to the airport," Andolino told ABC7.

The vegetables are growing using a technique called aeroponics. Water and a mineral solution are used as a base instead of soil. Seedlings are started in small cubes made from a natural volcanic ash material. When the plants mature, they are transplanted to tall, circular towers.

"It uses and recycles water. The water has nutrients in it that feeds the vegetables, so it's using less land growing vertically instead of horizontally," said Andolino.

Stanley's Blackhawks Lounge and the Wicker Seafood and Sushi Restaurant are among several O'Hare eateries that are already serving the produce to their customers. Andolino says that not only cuts the carbon footprint from transporting the foot but also guarantees quality.

"So you're not eating airport food. You're eating real good food that you would get at any restaurant in the city or elsewhere," she said.

The O'Hare aeroponics garden is a collaboration between the Chicago Department of Aviation and HMS Host, the company that manages most of the airport's concessions.

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