Gardens of the Past

The very essence of our existence is based on nutrition and nourishment. Our most basic needs are composed of food and water.   In reflecting upon the history of farming and gardening, one can understand how today’s kitchens have been influenced by food production. Further, one may even predict the qualities of the kitchen of the future.  While food and water have been a constant need for man to exist, farming is believed to have begun around 10,000 B.C.  We find the first indications of man forming groups to follow herds, gather fruits and hunt small animals and birds.  “About 8,000 B.C.E., there is a shift from hunting for survival to organized food production, which is completed in Europe by about 2,000 B.C.E.”1   The “slash and burn method” of farming required people to move frequently.  Much of the day consisted of hunting and gathering followed by preparation and cooking over an open flame.  While simple machinery and inventions contributed to a more simplified process over time, food production techniques remained the same until the Industrial Revolution.

Farmers Tilling the Rural Nebraskan Farmland
Farmers Tilling the Rural Nebraskan Farmland
Rustic Kitchen Interior of the Late 1800s

The most basic kitchens consisted of primitive items such as a table, a few bowls and tools, and the fireplace, which not only contributed to the cooking process but also heated the home.    As we move through history, kitchens begin to progress with the addition of more developed cooking utensils.  With the Industrial Revolution, we find for the first time people leaving agriculture and working in factories, where they experienced new technologies.  Thomas Edison’s invention of electricity opened a new world of opportunities, previously unknown to man. For example, it facilitated the introduction of indoor plumbing. “Electricity ignited the desire in rural families for other modern conveniences.”2  In addition, it made it “possible to pump water into indoor pipes. And like electricity, indoor plumbing was a revolution in rural life.”3  Gone were the days of hauling buckets to and from a spring, stream or river.  Now, one simply pumped a handle and out would come water.  Due to the presence of electricity and plumbing, the simple kitchen now expanded to accommodate inventions such as the electric range and conveniences like indoor sinks and ice boxes, and soon after, refrigerators.

Gardens of Today

The Modern Kitchen of the 1940s and 1950s
The Modern Kitchen of the 1940s and 1950s
A 1960s Kitchen
A 1960s Kitchen

While the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, proved to be a radical period for the development of kitchens,  it seemed to be the 90’s that pushed society into a new realm of kitchen design.  No longer did we find the basic triangle comprised of range, refrigerator, and sink.  Now additional inventions such as trash compactors, garbage disposals, computer work stations, appliance garages, and more began to shape the modern kitchen.  These new devices correlated to how food production was developing.  While large crop harvesting continued to be important to food production, we begin to see the emergence of frozen foods and canned foods with longer shelf life, thanks in part to the inventions of additives and food processing technology and so much more.

Luxury Kitchen of Present Day
Luxury Kitchen of Present Day

Moving into the last ten years, the kitchen has not only become a place for food preparation and storage, but also has become a place of entertainment and a place for the newest luxuries and technologies.  Inclusions of warming drawers, wine refrigeration, roisterers, and smart kitchens have shaped the design of the kitchen.  And as such modernizations emerge, so do the desires for boutique gardens such as herb and vegetable gardens off the kitchen area, and in some of the most interesting places, grow walls.

A Grow Wall Incorporated Into a Modern Kitchen of Today
A Grow Wall Incorporated Into a Modern Kitchen of Today

The love of bringing the outdoors in is not a foreign idea, whether as a bouquet of freshly cut wild flowers, or small potted plants.  Such passion has lead us to first incorporating herb gardens comprised of chives, cilantro, parsley, rosemary and such.  In the last few years, first in corporate environments, and more recently private homes, we have seen the inclusion of grow walls.  The use of such walls allows even the most urban and confining spaces to have an indoor garden comprised of “a wide variety of edible and ornamental plants”.4  With the simple inclusion of an automatic irrigation system, along with the correct containers, one can create their own indoor grow wall.  Attention given to air circulation, humidity, temperature, and lighting are critical elements to creating a successful grow wall.5  What do these advances in both our ability to garden indoors and in kitchen design hold for the future?

How does gravity effect vegetation growth? 

In trying to determine the effects of gravity on vegetation’s growth, several leading scientists recently published their findings on BMC Plant Biology.  The scientists conducting the research, Anna-Lisa Paul, Claire E. Amalfitano and Robert J. Ferl’s compared Arabidopsis seeds in the International Space Station against control group located at Kennedy Space Center.  They found that the orbiting plants in the space station grew more slowly than those on earth. The research concluded that gravity is not necessarily the key component in determining a plant’s growth pattern. In fact, gravity doesn’t even seem to be necessary for these patterns to occur at all.

Plants on orbit grew more slowly than comparable ground controls
Plants on orbit grew more slowly than comparable ground controls

Another experiment led by NASA, known as the Lada Validating Vegetable Production Unit, uses a simple chamber similar to a greenhouse. Water and light levels are controlled automatically.  A strong emphasis is place on four main objectives: Plants, Protocols, Procedures and Requirements. Some questions that the experiment aims to answer are: Can produce grown in space can be consumed safely?  Also, what types of microorganisms might grow on plants and what can be done to reduce the threat of harmful microorganisms? In addition, what can be done to clean or sanitize the produce after it has been harvested?  And lastly, how can production be optimized, with respect to the resources used in the growth process?

Barley in a root tray from the Lada greenhouse. Image credit NASA
Barley in a root tray from the Lada greenhouse. Image credit NASA

Interior Gardens that are Space Friendly

NASA has been conducting research related to vegetation growth in the hopes of better understanding the possibilities and limitations of long-term sustainable life within space.   In doing so, NASA developed a rotary hydroponic system concept called the Green Wheel Project.  This was created to provide a constant supply of fresh herbs and salad in spacecraft. In 2011, DesignLibero, a Milan-based design firm, redesigned the system, with the goal of improving its aesthetic and efficiency.  The newly redesigned system places “plants on a wheel which rotates around a light, while a pump provides irrigation. DesignLibero’s revolutionary design uses “tiny vases containing coco fiber to support more than eight feet of plants and roots.”

The Green Wheel Solution from DesignLibero
The Green Wheel Solution from DesignLibero
Green Wheel - Residential Application
Green Wheel – Residential Application
Green Wheel - Space Ship Application
Green Wheel – Space Ship Application

One main strength of the Green Wheel solution, is that its rotary concept could easily be incorporate with any modular interior structure that has a frame, such as a door or a window. This could be the stepping stone to an interior garden/farm that wraps around the interior shell of a spaceship shuttle. The tunnel of vegetation could not only provide food, but also generate fair amount of oxygen. The enclosed shell allows easy transport and control of valuable gaseous substances. The downside to this solution is it requires an external source of energy to support the LED light. This challenge could be solved by bringing in bioelectricity or organic electronics technology as a compost-to-energy solution.

Possible progression of the Green Wheel (Sketch by Polley Wong)
Possible progression of the Green Wheel                                            (Sketch by Polley Wong)

The journey and impact of gardening has become revolutionary since the Industrial Revolution.  With such advancements in science, who knows where tomorrow’s kitchens will take us, but assuredly, the inclusion of indoor gardening will be in the next wave of modern kitchens of the future.

Written by Chris Coggins & Polley Wong

 

Works Cited:

  1. Harwood, Buie.   Architecture and Interior Design.  Upper River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2012.  Textbook.
  2. Wessels Living History Farm, Farming in the 1930’s. 29 April 2012. Web. http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/life_13.html
  3. Wessels Living History Farm, Farming in the 1930’s. 29 April 2012. Web. http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/life_13.html
  4. Grow Edible Walls, 29 April 2014. Web. http://growediblewalls.com/about-us/
  5. EHow.com, How to Design a Grow Wall, 29 April 2014. Web. http://www.ehow.com/how_7234957_design-grow-room.html
  6.  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/654.html
  7.  http://refrigerators.reviewed.com/news/space-garden-will-allow-astronauts-to-eat-space-lettuce 
  8.  http://science.howstuffworks.com/space/aliens-ufos/extraterrestrial-life-odds.htm
  9.  http://news.discovery.com/tech/garden-wheel-120531.htm
  10.  http://www.designlibero.com/home/product-design/the-green-wheel
  11.  http://www.liquidleds.com.au/blog/leds-experiments-plant-growth-outer-space
  12.  http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2012/12/12/plants-in-space-prove-gravity-unnecessary-for-normal-growth/#.U1m9efldV8E
  13.  http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2229-12-232.pdf
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