Inside the French Laundry's secret garden

Tucked away in a discrete location somewhere in downtown Yountiville hides a little plot of land brimming with herbs and seasonal vegetables many people have likely never heard of. Among the usual broccoli and brussels sprouts are seemingly mystical things like chocolate mint bushes, ficoides, white carrots, miniature cucumbers and other foods that only show up on plates at Michelin-starred restaurants.

This little secret garden is Jacobsen Orchards, a 1.3 acre plot of land filled with more than 120 fruit trees, hundreds of herbs and dozens of varieties of culinary flowers that are used exclusively by the French Laundry and occasionally a couple of other notable San Francisco restaurants.

It’s run by the charming and ever-so-knowledgeable Peter Jacobsen, who purchased the plot with his wife Gwen over 35 years ago. He has been growing peculiar and delicious things for the French Laundry for 15 years.

heirloom carrots

A successful Bay Area dentist by day, Jacobsen is on a never-ending mission to source and grown the most unique seeds available in an effort to explore and pique the interest of his chef clients.

“Gweny and I plant it all,” Jacobsen says. “If you read articles about this stuff, there’s always something on the newest new thing growing. But once it hits the public eye, most of those things have been growing for some time. We really try to be on top of what’s new and get it in the garden.”

The slideshow features a few of the fascinating things growing in Jacobsen’s garden, and how the top chef of all top chefs uses them. Hopefully it will inspire you to find and grown some of this amazing stuff on your own.