20110920 ohare aeroponics
On Sept. 16, 2011, Rosemarie S. Andolino, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation (left) and Elie W. Maalouf, President and CEO, HMSHost cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the O'Hare Urban Garden, a unique, environmentally-friendly aeroponic garden located in the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, G Concourse. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is expanding to accommodate the 64 million passengers that fly through there each year. But turns out, it's not just growing runways and control towers.

As Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace sustainability desk, O'Hare is now growing herbs and veggies.

Sarah Gardner: Yep, it's right between Terminals 2 and 3 on Concourse G: A no-soil, vertical garden that grows everything from Swiss Chard to green beans.

Chicago's aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino became enamored with these "aeroponic" gardens after seeing one on an episode of "Nightline." She asked airport concessionaire HMS Host to fund one at O'Hare. Now some of O'Hare's restaurants are serving the garden's veggies to customers.

Rosemarie Andolino: Passengers are demanding more nowadays. They want good quality food at their airports. They want choices -- fresh choices.

O'Hare's veggies are growing inside 11-foot-high plastic towers. The roots are suspended in the air and fed a nutrient-rich water that trickles down through the towers and then gets recycled.

Brad Maher at HMS Host.

Brad Maher: It's very functional. I was very surprised at the amount of crops that we actually harvest out of here. We get a full crop every four weeks.

Brad Maher says O'Hare's new garden looks pretty too. Maybe, O'Hare hopes, pretty enough to take your mind off that flight delay.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner