You don’t need to be character Chance Gardener from 1979’s film classic Being There to have a green thumb.   The Chicago Botanic Society will show you just how easy it is to be green.   So, why not start in your own backyard and create a vegetable garden?   It’s not as daunting as you might imagine.   Not only would you grow organic produce and know exactly how it has been treated, but you would also create a pleasing aesthetic on your property (curb appeal applies to all phases of the home ownership experience-not solely to attract buyers when you list to sell).

The Chicago Botanic Society has been around for over 100 years.   Originally called the Chicago Horticultural Society, Urbs in Horto, meaning “city in a garden,” are words which have guided its mission.   The Society, dedicated to education, research, and preservation, has hosted highly respected horticultural exhibits over the past century.     Chicago’s intricately landscaped lakeshore and parks improvements are living proof of “city in a garden.”     Neighborhoods are catching onto the trend that landscaping/gardening is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also adds significant value to a property.

The Chicago Botanic Society’s educators have the knowledge and experience to teach anyone at any level how to use what is in the garden to create a great meal.

If you’re growing your own veggies, why not get some cooking tips from chefs who hail from around the world and are among Chicago’s most award-winning restaurants?   Head to the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden’s amphitheater and attend the free Garden Chef series from May 23 through October 4, every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 and 2:30 pm.

On Saturday and Sunday, July 18 and 19, get ready for the Barilla Italian Cooking Weekend.     As you visit the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden, you’ll get an idea of the freshness of ingredients these chefs use in their demonstrations at this event, which is always free.   You will also have the opportunity to taste the chefs’ gourmet pasta recipes.

The Regenstein will display an herb cart to teach you the basics of Italian herbs (i.e. flat-leaf parsley, basil, and thyme).   The Regenstein will also feature an ensemble of veggies, from Listada de Gandia eggplant to heirloom tomatoes to Calabrese broccoli.

Among the demonstrating chefs are Ken Chaffin, longtime veteran of Sunset Foods in Highland Park, for a pasta demonstration.   Chaffin makes pasta work even in a high-protein conscious age.   Executive chef Mark Grimes of the casual-classic hybrid Pinstripes (Northbrook and South Barrington) is not only a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, but also interned at Claridge’s in London.   You will learn from a chef who perfected his art among royal critics.

Chef Lorenzo Boni of Bologna, Italy traveled throughout Italy during his culinary educational years to experience regional cuisines firsthand.     He first worked in New York City’s San Domenico Restaurant as Second Chef, following which he returned to Bologna, Italy to open Osteria du Madon.   After joining Barilla at their world headquarters in Parma in 1999, Lorenzo ascended to the role of Barilla America‘s Executive Chef when he returned to the United States once again.

If you have experienced the award-winning Italian dining of Va Pensiero Restaurant in Evanston or attended a catered affair by Red Limo Cuisine in Northfield, you’ll want to learn from the artist behind both business ventures:     Chef and Owner Jeffrey S. Muldrow.    Chef Muldrow attended Glenview’s Dumas Pere Culinary School and refined his art through experience in Lyon, France.

Inspired by extensive Italian travels, Chef David DiGregorio founded Osterio Via Stato.    Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune says that DiGregorio “…cooks the way I like to eat.”   Time Out Chicago awarded Osterio in 2007 with “Best Tastes” and in 2006 with “Best Italian.”   Chef DiGregario creates   seasonally-prepared cuisine with local ingredients.   His 300 wine label list won him Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.      Also truly unique is the 2007 addition of a traditional Roman pizzeria romantically tucked inside Osterio Via Stato.

Mario Rizotti is the Italian Culinary specialist at Academia Barilla and also a former judge on Food Network’s Iron Chef.   He is a fan on his Facebook page of The Chopping Block, and the upscale AVEC Restaurant in Chicago.   Known for its flavor profile and Italian influence, AVEC features an eclectic menu and a wonderful wine list.

Ciao bella!

Next week we’ll be planting our garden.

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