The Photosynthetic Restaurant

A "spicy" dish from the second-course menu at the Photosynthetic Restaurant.

Artist and writer Jonathon Keats says he’s honestly surprised no one has ever thought about it before he did. “For nearly a half billion years, plants have subsisted on a diet of photons haphazardly served up by the sun and indiscriminately consumed, without the least thought given to culinary enjoyment. Frankly, it’s barbaric.”

From April 16 to July 17, Keats will be addressing that oversight by running a restaurant for plants at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. “The Photosynthetic Restaurant: Gourmet Sunlight for Plants as Catered by Jonathon Keats” will feature colored acrylic panes arranged throughout the museum’s gardens, panes that will filter sunlight just so for the flora. As the introduction to the book on the exhibit explains (posted below), different colors will provide different courses of nourishment.  


The basis of a photosynthetic diet is sunlight. Plentiful and wholesome, the broad spectrum of energy from the sun provides sustenance to plants around the planet. Yet plants in their natural environment seldom have the opportunity to savor individual colors such as orange and purple, let alone to enjoy complex arrangements of these ingredients prepared as a gourmet meal. The purpose of this book is to provide recipes developed to suit the taste of flora, that can be served to outdoor plants by straining daylight through panes of stained glass.

Each of these three recipes emphasizes different culinary traits. The first is certainly the most traditional, artfully accentuating qualities of unfiltered daylight, which is naturally most intensely violet at dawn and dusk. A healthful meal with plenty of high-energy orange and yellow midday illumination, this recipe is recommended as an introduction to photosynthetic cuisine for plants unaccustomed to gourmet sunlight.

The second recipe is more piquant. Plants naturally sense deep red light re-flected off the leaves of nearby flora as a signal of encroaching competition for resources such as water and light. This recipe mixes in that threat—just a hint—exciting the phytochromes as a sort of botanical zest.

This book concludes with a third recipe, more experimental than the first two, that is suggested only for flora that has developed an appreciation for photosynthetic cuisine, and that may enjoy bold juxtapositions of color starkly different from anything found in nature. In particular this recipe syncopates plants’ circadian rhythm by teasing their cryptochromes with a course of evening violet in the middle of the afternoon.

Preparing these recipes for consumption by plants may present a challenge on tundra or in deep rainforest, but should be fairly straightforward in most residential gardens. Suspended over the foliage, panels of stained glass or plastic should be angled to each intercept the sun’s rays in succession as the solar disc arcs across the sky. Alternately, for quicker meals or picnics in public spaces, filters can be successively held above plants by hand.

The reader of this book is encouraged to modify these recipes and to create new ones. Historically the development of gastronomy has been a collective endeavor, gradually refined for specific climates. To ripen into great cuisine, photosynthesis must become a hallmark of interspecial culture.

Jonathon Keats
Executive Chef
The Photosynthetic Restaurant

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