Worms at Work


At Restaurant Eve, where a backyard worm farm is part of the whole green attitude, there was an onion tasting contest to settle the freshness dispute once and for all.

Restaurant chef Cathal Armstrong, who runs the business with his wife Meshelle, put a California onion up against a local onion and then an onion grown in the backyard of the restaurant, located on S. Pitt Street. We tasted each, and the clear winner was the one that was just picked, Armstrong said.

That onion was grown alongside beans, jalapeos, artichokes, rosemary, thyme and basil in a garden fertilized by worms that feast on the scraps from the kitchen. Early in the spring, they also grew lettuce and spinach.

Armstrong bought about 2,000 worms from an Internet site, along with a multi level worm farm device that enables them to eat the organic trash, turn it into worm pooh, called castings in the professional world, which makes great fertilizer. As each tray gets full with compost, the worms migrate to new trays, Armstrong said. He dilutes the waste at a ratio of 10 to one, before spreading it on the garden. It’s part of the national green movement, and Armstrong shows some of his customers the slimy pets.

When our guests hear that the greens they’re eating have just been picked at 3:30 that afternoon, they are amazed and thrilled, Meshelle added. One customer couldnt believe such a thing could be done in the confines of Old Town, so he had to be shown. Evan, his waiter, then took him into the garden late into the evening with a flashlight, she said.

I havent pushed it as a marketing tool yet, Cathal said, but its gone pretty well.

Armstrong initially got the idea from his father in Ireland. We decided wed try to be as organic as possible, a more responsible way, he said.

Meshelle noted the role that worms play. The worms are brilliant, its like they’ve become pets in a way, she said. Its so incredible to watch the process of nature.

Armstrong and Restaurant Eve are part of a trend that is backed by the National Restaurant Association, which launched an initiative called Conserve: Solutions for Sustainability, in May.

The NRAs initiative is designed to support the nations nearly one million restaurants and foodservice locations as they become more eco-friendly.

In addition to the worms, Restaurant Eve is using green cleaning solutions from EcoLogic Solutions, whose sole purpose is to introduce the safest, effective and cost competitive cleaning products, their mission statement reads.

According to Anselm Doering at EcoLogic, people and corporations are undeniably gravitating towards green more and more. In the 90’s it was a personal movement. Now, especially in the past six months, it has become a corporate one, Doering said via email.

Restaurant Eve has also partnered up with Smarter Fuel, a company that converts restaurant grease into fuel. In addition to filling their grease vats at the Pitt Street location, Smarter Fuel picks up at Eammon’s Dublin Chipper and The Majestic restaurants, also managed by the Armstrongs.