Hidden in Plain Sight: A Secret Garden Grows In An Ann Arbor Restaurant Basement

Aug 28, 2017

Microgreens growing in the Black Pearl's basement.
Credit Lisa Barry

We’ve created a new feature here on 89.1 WEMU we’re calling “Hidden In Plain Sight.”  It focuses on some of the people or places in our community that you may not have known about or were familiar with.

89.1 WEMU’S Lisa Barry takes you to a secret garden that you may actually have eaten from – but perhaps didn’t know even existed!


Christy Kaledas is the manager and co-founder of the microgreens garden growing in the basement of the Black Pearl restaurant on Main Street in Downtown Ann Arbor.  Harry Cohen is a psychologist and executive coach who opened the Black Pearl nine years ago as a labor of love.

Microgreens in the Black Pearl's grow room.
Credit Lisa Barry

For over three years, there has been a "grow room" in the basement of the restaurant where an assortment of microgreens are grown and harvested.  Microgreens are basically seedlings, harvested and eaten just a week or two after they are planted in soil from a seed using no fertilizers or pesticides.

Back in the kitchen, Nick Harlow, who works under the direction of Executive Chef James Wilhelm, says he enjoys incorporating microgreens into many of their dishes at the restaurant and feels good knowing he is serving something super healthy to diners.

Christy Kaledas is the co-founder and manager of the microgreens gardens.
Credit Lisa Barry

Since becoming so popular, the Black Pearl microgreens garden has expanded beyond the 800 square foot space in the basement of the restaurant to a warehouse in nearby Plymouth.  They now sell the greens to five markets and several local restaurants and their reach is continuing to expand.

Kaledas holding a tray of micro kale in the Black Pearl's grow room.
Credit Lisa Barry

The president of MGM Grand Detroit, Mike Neubecker, says he plans to start incorporating more of the Black Pearl’s microgreens into some of the signature restaurants at the casino.

Black Pearl founder Harry Cohen (bottom left) sitting in front of his restaurant.
Credit Lisa Barry

Restaurant owner Harry Cohen says not only does he nurture healthy greens in the restaurant basement, but he hopes to continue to grow himself and his business and continue to look for ways to serve the community, customers, and his employees.

Black Pearl restaurant on Main Street in Ann Arbor.
Credit Lisa Barry

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu