What was once the Stapleton Airport runway is now sprouting sustainably grown greens. Brooklyn, New York-based Gotham Greens has opened its high-tech urban greenhouse next to Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, and is out to woo Front Rangers with local basil, greens, salad dressings, and pesto.
Gotham Greens’ aim is to provide high-quality local product on a national scale, bolstering the food supply chain by stocking cities with fresh greens grown right there in the area. The company started in Brooklyn in 2011 and has slowly expanded, with the Aurora greenhouse marking its eighth—and furthest west—location. The 30,000-square-foot facility will provide two million heads of lettuce to the Rocky Mountain region each year, as well as serve as the company’s flagship site on this side of the country. Because the greens are grown and sold locally, the products are fresher when they get to your kitchen, and because the plants are grown hydroponically, Gotham Greens’ produce uses 95 percent less water and 97 percent less land than traditional soil-based produce.
“The technology enables us to have perfect conditions for our plants,” says director of community and partnership marketing Nicole Baum. “Our plants are very spoiled. They’re very coddled.”
That technology includes curtains to create a natural SPF for the plants, as well as to shade them from the sun or lock in heat in the winter. The temperature-controlled space, which is typically set at 75 degrees with 70 percent humidity, can even create different climates depending on where you are in the greenhouse. Basil, for example, likes it a couple degrees warmer than the lettuces. The misting system works overtime in Colorado’s dry climate to inject moisture into the air.
Unique to this Centennial State location are two new-to-Gotham varieties of lettuce: the crispy green leaf, a hardier and more nutrient-dense alternative to romaine, and Rocky Mountain Crunch, a toothsome green whose leaves grow in a rose-like pattern.
You can buy both of those lettuces, along with eight other types of lettuce, basil, salad dressings (don’t miss the Vegan Goddess), and pesto, at Alfalfa’s, Safeway, and Whole Foods locations in the Denver metro area, but you’ll also find Gotham Greens products at an increasing number of local restaurants. At neighboring Stanley Marketplace, Annette and Comida use the greens, and owner Tommy Lee nabbed the crispy green leaf lettuce for his menus at Uncle and Hop Alley.
“We like working with chefs who care about where the food comes from, and luckily in Colorado there’s a lot of them,” Baum says.
Thanks to the greenhouse’s ideal year-round growing conditions, it takes only about a month for seeds to metamorpihize into those verdant, leafy greens. Which means you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of Gotham Greens’ locally-grown produce in grocers and restaurants around town—even through winter.