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!

Dig in!

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!!

Strawberry Buckle:

Preheat the oven to 375

1/2 cup Smart Balance spread or other vegetable spread
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
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.

Ryan Van Wilgen
My wife had a moment of panic last week, she had to dig deep down in our chest freezer to find the very last batch of tomatoes from last year’s garden. She and I spent hours processing and freezing as many vegetables as we could to use throughout the winter. It’s a sad moment when we finally run out of our own veggies from the garden but hopefully, it means we are closer to warmer months ahead.

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!

Ryan Van Wilgen
I don’t know about you guys but this is a smack in the weather-reality face. We have been experiencing such a mild winter and spring-like temperatures but then bitterly cold days and now SNOW! There is one good thing about snow, it is a natural insulator. Any plants that have started to break dormancy will have a nice blanket to protect them. My dad always says March snow is like the poor farmer’s fertilizer. The ground has a chance of slowly soaking up the nitrogen and micronutrients that the snow grabs on its way down from the atmosphere. That’s the upside! My daughter Nora has especially been loving the warmer weather, she has been going to the park almost every day. So what do you do with a very active toddler when it is too cold or snowy to head to the park? Well if you are Nora, you get to run your heart out in the greenhouse! My wife and I bring her to the garden center and set her loose. She loves to run around being “chased” by mommy and daddy. Nora has also made friends with our greenhouse manager Darlene who lets her feed the Koi fish. Nora had a funny little surprise hiding in among the pottery this weekend, a chipmunk! It was so hilarious watching Nora trying to find the chipmunk as it ran from one stack of pottery to the next, Nora even laid face-first right on the floor looking under benches. The chipmunk snuck back outside- much to Nora’s disappointment! ‘Where chipmunk go?’ was the question of the day. One thing is for sure in the Van Wilgen house, we are all ready for spring to sweep in for real! If you are like us and looking to get out of the house, we have planned a fun-filled weekend for everyone, no matter what the weather! See you this weekend!
As for our special guest…

Dr. Allan Armitage will be joining us for our Perennial Rose Rally! Allan wrote the handbook for

perennials and is full of useful plant knowledge. The VW team sat in on a talk with Allan last fall and we enjoyed it very much. Anyone from the beginner to even the most perennial gardener will get a plethora of great information and no shortage of stories. So for the clues, Allan worked at the University of Georgia alongside Dr. Dirr. It is pretty amazing that 2 huge horticulturalists worked on the same campus. Two, if you have seen me in person or in a photo, I almost always have my signature hat on. Three, I grew up in Canada and received my B.S. in science from McGill University, as they say or just maybe just Dr. A says, the Harvard of the north. We are very excited for June 3rd!

Ryan Van Wilgen