ST. HELENA, Calif. — A trend many groups saw coming, including the National Restaurant Association in its annual What’s Hot survey, seems to be living up to its predicted hotness.

Restaurant gardens were a prominent topic of conversation at the Culinary Institute of America’s Flavor, Quality and American Menus conference Sept. 8-11. Even if it’s just for a few specialty items, restaurants are growing more of their own produce.

Sean Brock, executive chef of McCrady’s Restaurant, Charleston, S.C., grows heirloom tomatoes and other vegetables on a 1.5 acre garden for the restaurant. One of his first projects was a specific variety of corn he felt he needed for a shrimp and grits dish with homegrown corn to make the grits.

After tracking down the seed and starting his own production of the variety of corn he felt he needed, he developed a method to cold mill the corn using liquid nitrogen and a blender.

“What we’ve created is a beautiful, modern dish that still speaks to the history of the dish,” McCrady said.

At Meadowood, a St. Helena resort, it takes a private gardener to keep the restaurant stocked with the specialty produce it requires, including microgreens and baby vegetables. Meadowood works with The Napa Valley Reserve to supply vegetables, fruit, microgreens and flowers for its menu.

“I have to figure out how much I will be using in three months, which isn’t something I’m used to doing,” said Christopher Kostow, executive chef. “We’re not a traditional farm-to-table restaurant.”

Traditional fine dining farm-to-table restaurant dishes can be a little esoteric, Kostow said.

“Like a single carrot on a plate,” Kostow said.

Kostow did use baby carrots — the kind that are truly young versions of a full-sized carrot—in a dish with freeze dried dressing he called snow in his Meadow Garden Crudite with Vinaigrette Snow.

“In the restaurant we use this as a canapé so the guests get a little taste of the garden,” Kostow said.

John Currence, chef-owner of the City Grocery Restaurant Group, Oxford, Miss., said he uses a ½ acre garden at his house to grow heirloom varieties of vegetables so that his history-inspired dishes are made with the same ingredients they were in the past.

“I wanted to grow to cut down on food costs, I want to know where my food was coming from, and I want to make sure I’m growing the food I remember,” Currence said.

Inspired by the avalanche of greens in the South during the summer, as Currence referred to it, the James Beard Award winning chef prepared a Gumbo Z’Herbs, or gumbo of greens, during a culinary demonstration at the conference. He used collard and mustard greens, as well as spinach and cabbage, in the gumbo.

“I can take a case and a half of greens and turn it into a single pot of soup,” Currence said.

Currence said he makes the dish for special occasions, including Good Friday, when religious beliefs bar certain people from eating meat or fish.

Currence also showed an example of an internationally inspired southern dish.

“In New Orleans, we don’t consider ourselves the South,” Currence said. “It’s kind of this elitist mindset; we think we’re our own island of culture. So my journey to southern food is kind of convoluted.”

Convoluted enough to include Africa, as it turns out.

Currence demonstrated his West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup, which as he describes it, blends two of the greatest Southern flavors in sweet potatoes and peanuts.

“The Southern menu is completely misunderstood,” Currence said. “For most folks, they think fried chicken. Paula Dean comes to mind. It’s unhealthy, it’s bad for you, it’s stupid food.”

Currence said he crafts menus based on seasonality because he thinks it’s the only honest way to cook.