As I was saying.....
I got a little interrupted last time by life... Anyway, when we entered the garden, we had to walk through a semi-clean room, where we walked through a bleach bath to clean any bacteria or critters off of our shoes. ALso, it was windy to there, to blow any thing off of us. One of the reason the H.F. is so successful is due to not only the optimal light and temperature of the place and the perfect balance of nutrients supplied to the plants, but the fact that there are no pests to deal with. (I am sure that an occasional Caribbean bug makes it through, but not his girlfriend, so once he is in there, that's about it for him!)
The first thing we saw were vats of sweet lettuces growing in huge squares raised off the ground about 6 inches. They put the small plants, which they start from seeds, (that area is called the nursery, so cute,) into circles cut out from styrofoam that fit the squares. Styrofoam. It is sterile, he told us, and bacteria does not grow on it. Who knew? Guess those cheap coolers in the grocery really are bad ass. The roots grow down into water that is fed with nutrients that are perfect for it. The nutrients come from two large upright plastic vats, about the size of a water cooler. The water is always slightly moving to keep it from stagnation. The next large ( and I mean large) square has older lettuce, etc.
After this, there are rows and rows of gorgeous plants growing upward on cables. As the plant grows, it is slowly hosted upward on a cable to save room on the ground. When it reaches its maximum height, probably about 12 feet, they began to snake the plant along the ground in ovals around the whole grouping. So along the ground, were lines and lines of plant vines, neatly wrapping around the rows of plants. The cables could be moved along the top to continue to let the plants grow and snake along the ground. So kind of think what the dry cleaners gizmo looks like where all the clean laundry hangs, and how they push a button and the clothes spin around until they find the ones they want. It was sort of like that, except with perfect, pesticide and pest free plants grown in an optimum environment. Only plans that did not get too heavy could be grown vertically like this, like orange, yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. So pumpkins and summer squash were out. Oh and they had bok choy, but that was grown horizontally like the lettuces and cabbage.
The chef said he, too hated the thought of hydroponic farming like ze Dutch do because the veggies were so tasteless. Until he went to Anguilla and those vegetables. The reason, he explained, the vegetables are so bland when we get them from a H.F. is because they are picked before their prime. So the sugar has not had time to develop and they are mealy, hard, boring, etc. They must be picked like this because they will continue to ripen en route. But they are not still receiving the nutrients to get the best taste. However, when you have your very own H.F., you have the luxury to pick at the blessed time of perfection.
Now, don't you all just want to run out and build your very own hydroponic farm? My husband does!