Kansas City

Big Town on the Prairie

By Mary Pepitone


PLanters Seed Feed Spice Kansas CityFurther south, in the Westport District, is Kansas City’s first green hotel, the Q Hotel and Spa. It offers yoga classes free to guests, so it’s easy to breathe away the tension of travel, and when you’re ready to head off, the hotel has a shuttle service—in a hybrid car, naturally—to the city’s main attractions. Cross the state line to suburban Westwood to discover the Eastern treasures of Asiatica’s shopfront and workrooms; their unique garments, many “upcycled” from vintage kimono textiles and other rare goods, are a mix of bespoke and readymade. There are also droolworthy handwoven and dyed scarves, art jewelry, and objets d’virtu to tempt you further. 

Several Kansas City restaurants are notable for their eclectic spin on farm-to-table. There’s Blue Bird Bistro, where a seasonal meal includes bison with blueberries, and rose-infused pound cake, made from organic flowers gathered locally—the neighbor’s garden! And Füd, serving organic vegan dishes prepared by owner chef Heidi VanPelt-Belle, who oversees the restaurant’s kitchen garden. Bluestem restaurant’s location, tucked into a corner at a busy intersection, may not look promising, but the food is full of surprises—a bit like the town itself. Owned by James Beard Award–nominated chef Colby Garrelts and his pastry-chef wife, Megan, Bluestem has menus that change regularly to reflect seasonal produce, often sourced from the Garrelts’ farm in Parker, Kansas.

Turn toward the east, and the century-old Arts and Crafts–style home of Project Living Proof is identifiable by its raised vegetable gardens in the front yard. Open for touring, the 3,665-square-foot home has been renovated to showcase sustainable building practices. The home boasts rain gardens outside, a solar-powered heating and cooling system inside, and environmentally conscious building materials throughout.

Head south and east some 30 miles to experience Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical gardens, which include the 12-acre Heartland Harvest Garden. The largest edible garden of its kind in the country, it’s modeled after the famed French potager at the Château de Villandry in the Loire Valley and opened just 3 years ago. To get a bird’s-eye view, climb to the barn’s silo observation deck to fully appreciate the four stunning formal gardens laid out like a patchwork quilt, each one planted with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and native grasses and flowers.

Sample a spring recipe of Pea Soup with Crème Fraîche from Bluestem.

Originally published in Organic Gardening Magazine April/May 2013.