There's no question that fresh herbs taste better than their dried counterparts, nor is there any denying that garden-fresh veggies are preferable to ones that have spent the past several days in a truck or on a supermarket shelf. People who are lucky enough to live in warmer climates can keep the fresh greens coming year-round, if they plant a garden. For those of us in colder regions, however, things get a bit more challenging come winter. We can rig up indoor herb gardens on windowsills or using full-spectrum fluorescent lights, but that can sometimes get a little complicated. If you can justify its price, however, there is an alternative - the Urban Cultivator.

Putting it simply, the Urban Cultivator is an enclosed hydroponic system designed for continuously growing herbs and smaller vegetables indoors. An integrated computer controls watering and light cycles, and also activates built-in fans to maintain proper humidity and air circulation. Users are required to add supplied organic fertilizer once a week, and eat the greens when they're ready for harvest.

The consumer model, known as the Kitchen Cultivator, hooks into the home's existing power and water systems, like a dishwasher - not coincidentally, it is also about the same size as one, so it can be installed in the same sort of spaces. A bigger Kitchen Cultivator is also available, that doubles as a kitchen island. Both versions have caster wheels and solid maple butcher block tops, that can serve as food preparation areas.

Prices for the consumer model start at US$2,200 - your appetite for greens will determine how quickly it pays for itself. A larger industrial model of the Urban Cultivator starts at $6,000. It is already in use at several restaurants in and around the manufacturer's home city of Vancouver, Canada.