What is the number one must-have for fall decorating? It’s the pumpkin of course! It’s a mandatory staple for Halloween, but pumpkins are versatile when it comes to decorating, and they can take you all the way through the fall into Thanksgiving! Most of you are probably familiar with Howden pumpkins which are ideal for carving, or Sugar pumpkins which are common in baking, but we carry some lesser-known ‘unique pumpkins’ which make a statement in any home, or on any stoop. We’ve rounded up a list of a few of our favorite gourd-gous pumpkins just in time for fall!
One of the best pumpkins for Halloween carving or roasted seeds.
Don’t be scared, this ghostly white pumpkin is named after the friendly ghost Casper! Perfect for carving and even better for painting. Caspers provides great contrast in fall gourd and pumpkin displays. The flesh is super sweet, making it a great choice for pies and baking too!
The French heirloom Galeux D’Eysines Pumpkin is a very popular variety right now! It has a beautifully warted exterior which is a very soft muted buckskin color. It also makes for a delicious pie!
Red Warty Thing
Don’t be fooled by the peculiar appearance! Not only is this a super fall decoration, but it also has stringless, fine-grained flesh that’s excellent for eating, similar to a hubbard squash. Carve a face into it and make the most bizarre and spooky jack-o-lantern on your block!
These can be used in any pumpkin recipe. Puree to make the perfect pumpkin butter or soups or try roasting or grilling to enhance the sweet flavor.
Sugar Pumpkins are great for making soups or stuffing. It’s also great as a homemade pumpkin puree for pies.
Yes, the name derives from the fairytale as the shape of Cinderella’s carriage! This variety was reportedly cultivated by the Pilgrims for the first Thanksgiving dinner with perfect flavor for pies or winter squash recipes.
Sweet flavoring lends itself well to pie fillings, scones, and cakes. You can also use roasted pieces in risottos, salads, and pasta dishes. Dice and add to curries, soups, and stews. To showcase the unique exterior color slice into wedges leaving the skin attached and serve roasted or grilled.
Very eye-catching for holiday decorations. Deep-orange sweet flesh can be used for pies, soup, and gourmet culinary delights.
One Too Many
This pumpkin, which resembles a bloodshot eye, features delicate orange veining throughout.
This stunning ornamental squash/pumpkin features speckled, deep green stripes atop a beautiful creamy gold.
This long-lasting pumpkin looks like a flattened wheel of cheddar. Higher in nutrients and sugars, it’s always smooth-grained and has a denser flesh that will result in a better custard. You can also use chunks in your winter roasts and stews.
Winter is Coming… and that is not just for all you Game of Thrones fans. It is that time of year and the veggie growing season is drawing to a close. Fortunately, we do not have to prepare for The Night King or his army of White Walkers heading from the north but it is really nice to prepare for winter and enjoy as much of your garden as possible. For tomato lovers it is tough to watch the fruits of your labor go to waste so you pick everything you can, but what about all the tomatoes that will not have a chance to ripen? Some of them might ripen on the counter but for a lot of them, they will stay firm and green. My family, particularly my wife, stores as much as possible and she can’t stand to see anything go to waste so even though those tomatoes are green, we are going to use them!
Have you seen or heard of the movie, “fried green tomatoes”? Yep, you know where I’m going next. For a guy who is not a huge fan of “raw” tomatoes, the first time my wife placed a plate of fried green tomatoes in front of me I raised an eyebrow. I will say I was pleasantly surprised! Although who am I kidding, it’s fried, throw a little sriracha mayo for dipping and now we are talking. It kind of tastes like a tangier version of fried eggplant so go ahead and make it “Parmesan style” with sauce and cheese.
Give this recipe a shot and let us know what you think!
Best Fried Green Tomatoes
- Prep 5 m
- Cook 15 m
- Ready In 20 m
Recipe By: Diana Swenson-Siegel
“You can also fry up red tomatoes with this recipe but make sure they are not overripe or they will be mushy. Serve these tomatoes outside with a glass of iced tea one summer night and enjoy the sunset with someone you love.”
- 4 large green tomatoes
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1-quart vegetable oil for frying
- Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick. Discard the ends.
- Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
- In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on paper towels.
Now that we are starting to see and enjoy some nice weather, my family’s container gardens at our house are starting to take off. My wife always requests that we have at least one big pot of herbs growing on our deck each summer and this year we have two. My daughter, Nora, planted an herb bowl for Mother’s Day
at our Kids Klub event and Kirstin potted up a great assortment for us a few weeks ago. My wife uses a lot of fresh herbs when she cooks and this time of year it is so convenient to walk right out on the deck and snip some herbs. We all have our must-haves but on our list is definitely: BBQ Rosemary, Genovese Basil, English Thyme, Flat leaf Parsley and Mojito Mint. If you are looking for something fun and different, try Pesto Perpetua Basil. It is a variegated leaf, great grower, EXTREMELY pungent and flavorful as well as looks great in containers even amongst flowers. A bonus for all you foodscaping enthusiasts. This past weekend she made one of my favorites, Turkey Meatloaf that she has adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it!
Turkey Meatloaf with fresh Thyme:
Pre-heat oven to 325
Olive oil for sautéing
2 medium sweet onions chopped up
3 tablespoons fresh thyme (pull the little leaves off of the woody stems)
3-4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup (we use Heinz Simply Ketchup)
2 LBs lean ground turkey meat
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1 large egg beaten
Ketchup for topping.
Heat the olive oil on low/medium in a medium sauté/frying pan and add the chopped onions. Sauté until slightly translucent. *Hint* In our house we always start the onions with a few tablespoons of olive oil but usually use a little water if they start sticking to the pan to cut down on the amount of oil we use. After the onions have been sautéed for a few minutes, add the Worcestershire sauce, 4 tablespoons of ketchup, and the fresh thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes. Pull the pan off of the stove and let it cool.
Line a large cookie sheet (with sides) or a Pyrex cooking dish with a sheet of tin foil for easy clean-up later.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, egg, and cooled onion mixture. Make sure to take off any rings you have on because we are about to get messy! Using your hands, mix all ingredients together. Once everything is mixed, form a “loaf” on the cookie sheet. Grab your ketchup bottle and pour a generous amount of ketchup over the top of the “loaf”. Using a spoon, spread the ketchup evenly across the top.
Slide your cooking sheet into the oven (middle shelf if you can) and let it bake for about an hour or until the internal temperature of the center of the meatloaf reaches 165.
Not only does this make a great dinner, but even better is leftovers on a sandwich for lunch the next day!
Ryan Van Wilgen
I was in a little bit of a jam last week, we were down a trailer because it was being serviced and I needed to move our mini excavator to a friend’s house; I was helping him level out his front yard. I called in a favor from Rose’s next door and they let me borrow one of their trailers. When I went and grabbed it, we took a walk over to check out the progress of their newly planted vineyard. Each grape has this blue tube around them which protects the plant, makes them grow up towards the wire support system, keeps water at the root zone, and creates a little greenhouse effect for each grape plant. Pretty cool, now you know when you drive down route 139 and see all those blue things, there are grapes in there! Walking back to the truck, I laid eyes on their strawberry fields, I couldn’t believe how many strawberries there were and so
many ready to pick. I immediately started laughing thinking of Nora and her friend Theo. Last year they went strawberry picking at Rose Orchards and Theo’s mom joked that they looked like extras in The Walking Dead. I told this to Jon and Nate, then I quickly retracted my statement, “I mean of course they paid for all the strawberries they picked they wouldn’t have tried any”. Maybe instead of weighing the container of strawberries picked they should weigh the kids before and after they pick!
Every time Nora comes to the farm she has to check out Papa’s garden and see the strawberry plants. My wife kept telling her that it is too soon for strawberries but Nora, being a toddler, has to check for herself. Our strawberry plants are pretty young and they will take a few years to become plentiful but it is amazing to teach Nora how to pick her own strawberries. “We only pick the red ones, right?” Nora is doing a pretty good job at not picking too many that aren’t ready.
Strawberries are Nora’s favorite and one of the few foods that we know she will never refuse to eat.
Now that strawberry season is upon us, I can wait for Nora and my wife to harvest their hearts out. Sometimes it means daddy gets one of my favorite desserts! Strawberry Buckle! Not quite cake and not quite a cobbler, aka an excuse to eat it for dessert or for breakfast. After a little persistence, my wife has let me share the recipe with all of you! Happy baking and happy strawberry season!!
Preheat the oven to 375
1/2 cup Smart Balance spread or other vegetable spread
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups flour
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup French vanilla yogurt (we use stony fields farm)
2 pints of strawberries cut up
1/2 cup+ sugar
1/2 cup + flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup smart balance or other spread
Cream together 1/2 cup smart balance, 1/2 cup sugar, egg, 21/2 teaspoons baking powder. Stir in flour and yogurt a little at a time. Spread batter into a 9×12 Pyrex style pan and sprinkle strawberries over the top. In a separate bowl, combine softened 1/2 cup smart balance 1/2 cup + of sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Add cinnamon.
Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
** hint place a baking sheet under the pan in case the strawberry juice bubbles over.
Guess what guys?! Herbs are so easy! If you have never gardened before and you would like to make the foray into the world of gardening…go for it with herbs. Not only are they easy but they are fun, practical, delicious, and pretty. There is not a ton you need to know about herb care, thus the “easy” part. But, you know me…I can’t just say nothing! Really, I am only trying to help. Pinky swear.
A FEW TIPS FOR EASY HERB CARE:
- Your soil must be well-draining. Use a regular potting mix like Van Wilgen’s Professional Potting Mix. Don’t use heavy compost or topsoil. If you are planting the herbs in the ground, be sure to lighten up the soil especially if it currently feels like brown pavement. Use some VW Planting Mix amended into the soil to keep it loose.
- Here is a little trick that your neighbors won’t know. Add a little Greensand to the soil when you are planting your herbs. Not only is it a natural soil conditioner that helps with drainage but it gives herbs the extra mineral boost they need.
- Herbs need fertilizer but don’t go crazy. I have two favorite fertilizers I like. Trick #2: Kelp Meal is great for adding flavor to your herbs. If you love to cook and what to really get full flavor from your herbs, hit them with a little Kelp Meal. It makes them more delicious. Van Wilgen’s Root Boost is the other fertilizer I use on Herbs. It is organic and well-balanced with Kelp Meal to boot. Use Root Boost every couple of weeks applied to the herbs foliage.
- Keep herbs damp daily. I know, I know, I said that the soil needs to be well-draining with herbs. This is true but they are also happier if the soil is damp every day. Confusing huh? What I am trying to say is that in the heat of summer, herbs need to be watered daily but the soil they are planted in needs to drain efficiently.
- Don’t be afraid to harvest your herbs. The more you use them, the more herbs you get. I used to make the mistake of taking off the bottom leaves of my Basil plant before the top. Silly me. It is best to harvest herbs from the top. You can even pinch herbs back ½ way down the stem. This keeps them from getting leggy.
- Don’t buy herbs if your main desire is for flowers. Yes, herbs do flower but the flowers are rather insignificant and if you really want to use herbs for cooking, letting them flower is not the best idea. Once herbs flower and go to seed, it indicates they are at the end of their lifecycle for the season. If a flower appears, pinch it right off. By cutting off flowers, herbs live longer lives, are better for harvesting and I think even taste better.
- Give them some sunshine. Most herbs are happier in full sun (5 plus hours) so don’t deprive them. Although, I do find that herbs in my yard do a little better if not all of the sun is afternoon soon. Some herbs can handle less sunlight like chives and mint.
- Only plant mint in pots. I love mint. Don’t get me wrong, making my own summer cocktails with Mojito Mint is so fun but mint in the ground is aggressive. If you are looking for an herb to take over a garden bed, then mint is your herb.
My final tip for easy herb care is just to have fun. Mix up herbs with annual flowers. Plant them in cute, little pots on your windowsill, fill a window box with herbs and flowers for easy harvesting, cook with them, and drink with them. If you are a beginning gardener or well-seasoned, herbs are for everyone.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
*VW Potting Mix
*VW Root Boost
Speaking of warmer months, my Dad is already busy planning out the garden and finding ways to make it better. We have been combating everyone’s arch-nemesis, WEEDS, by putting a VERY thick layer of mainely mulch in-between the rows and it has helped keep the weeds down and let the veggies thrive. Last year my wife taught me how to flash freeze green beans and one night while she was out with some friends, she left me in charge of processing a whole bushel that my daughter and I had harvested earlier in the day. Nora and I paid extra attention to keep the purple beans separate from the green beans. That evening after I trimmed the whole pile of beans, again being careful to keep the purple separate from the green. I worked in batches boiling the beans for a few minutes and then dunking them in a large bowl of ice and water. I finally get to the big batch of purple beans and that’s when I discover that purple green beans turn GREEN after cooking them! All that work separating and they all end up green. The boiling water cooks them just enough to kill any of the bad stuff and the ice water stops the cooking process so that the beans won’t be mushy when we use them later in the winter. After the green beans cooled, I spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer. An hour or so later I separated them into freezer bags, labeled them with the date, and stack ’em in the chest freezer. Even though the purple beans didn’t stay purple, it was so nice to have a small piece of summer with our dinners throughout the winter. We can’t wait to get started!
What is a Freshtival?
Well, to us it’s a weekend full of fun, food, and planting. It’s how we celebrate our community and the arrival of Spring. Live music, great food, and fun for the whole family.
Just like years past our favorite food trucks will be here all weekend long. Van Wilgen’s greenhouse will be alive with plants & demo gardens. If you’re like us and want to get your hands dirty we have 3 fun workshops planned.
Ready to start talking about your garden? Saturday, March 18th Kerry Ann Mendez award-winning author, speaker, and garden designer, will be giving a presentation Spectacular Plants for High Impact, Low Maintenance Gardens Kerry Ann is a ‘passionate perennials with over 25 years of hands-on experience. As a consultant, designer, and teacher, she specializes in low-maintenance, sustainable garden and landscape design, incorporating perennials, ornamental grasses, flowering shrubs, bulbs, and no-fuss annuals.
Our Kids Klub is also throwing a big party this weekend with FRESHkids! All weekend long kids will get to hang out with baby animals, play some games, make a craft and plant some lettuce with Mom & Dad. Fun for the whole family!
The Van Wilgen Kitchen will host our favorite Chefs, right next to our Beer Garden celebrating local breweries and wine with tastings. Visit our Kitchen to see :
3/18 AT 11 am GUILFORD MOORING
3/18 AT 1 PM THE STAND BRANFORD
3/18 AT 215 PM CASEUS
3/19 AT 11AM BILL VAN WILGEN
3/19 AT 1 PM OLD QUARRY OLIVE OIL & SAM & OLIVER
In our Beer Garden we will host tastings with:
J Edwards Winery, Black Hog Brewing, Thimble Island Brewery, Stony Creek Brewery, and Duvig Brewery.
See you this weekend in the greenhouse!