FAIRMONT - At first glance, the garden surrounding the patio at Bean Town Grill in Fairmont looks like a flower bed - yellow, pink and purple flowers, surrounded by green foliage.
But closer inspection reveals the flowers are interspersed with vegetables and herbs that supply the chef with fresh produce for use in daily specials and drinks.
This year, squash, rhubarb, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, mint, parsley, basil and more serve as the kitchen garden, which began as an afterthought and has become a regular food source for the restaurant.
The garden at Bean Town Grill includes a variety of flowers, vegetables and herbs.
Co-owner Steve Jette said that when he and co-owner Paul Baldus decided to put in a patio, they opted for natural fencing to separate it from the roadway, and installed a berm that would be planted with flowers.
"When we were at the nursery, we were looking at ground cover," Jette said. "We started thinking of planting strawberries."
Then their thinking expanded to other produce. Since the restaurant planned to use a lot of fresh vegetables and herbs in its menu, maybe they could plant some.
Jette said last summer the plants did well, and except for a prolific acorn squash plant, the restaurant was able to incorporate everything into its service.
"We had more acorn squash than you would believe," he said. "This year, we only planted one acorn squash."
Herbs still growing when the garden was winterized were frozen and used throughout the winter.
Jette said each year they grow food in the garden, it will change depending on what they feel like planting.
"We are still learning," he said. "Last year wasn't as carefully planned. This year we thought it through a little bit more."
The produce is mainly used in daily specials chosen when the chef sees what is ready. The garden tending and picking is typically done in the morning as staff prepares for the day.
With the cold wet spring, things weren't looking great early this year, but like gardens all over town the plants have sprung back, even if a little later than usual.
"Our mint is almost ready for mojitos," Jette said.
Tomatoes and peppers are starting to appear now.
Customers don't always say much about the garden, but as the weather warmed, Jette began to see more and more people looking at it while enjoying the patio.
"We are starting to see people milling around out there looking at the garden," he said.
Like all gardeners, he has to keep an eye on hungry animals, as one of the pepper plants in mysteriously missing leaves.
"We don't have too much trouble with animals," he said.
Jette said the restaurant has a regular menu and a seasonal menu, in addition to daily specials.
"[The garden] has been good for us," he said. "We can be a little more creative with the menu."