by Sarah Lagrotteria
As we spring forward, thoughts turn to the coming days of sunshine and blooms. Those who planned ahead will soon be enjoying budding tulips and for those of us with less forethought and even less space, it’s the perfect time to get your hands damp planting a potted garden. Whether planting herbs in the window box or potting heirloom tomatoes on a sunny back stoop, the Babbo staff heads first and foremost to the Union Square Greenmarket to begin planning their own little dirt patch.
At Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays
Located in Old Tappan, New Jersey since 1873, Stokes Farm is known as a specialty herb and vegetable farm, promising over 8 varieties of heirloom tomatoes by late summer. One of the original 12 farms that formed the Union Square Greenmarket, Stokes Farm had been a presence for 27 years now.
Herbs available by the pot include several varieties of thyme, including Lemon Thyme, which looks like English Thyme but smells and tastes like lemon and can be used in recipes as a substitute for zest or juice; Texas Tarragon, a milder form of French Tarragon that remains staunch under a hot summer sun; Lemon Verbena, a tender shrub that tastes most truly like a lemon and whose essential oils are used to infuse a soft lemony scent and flavor into teas, cakes, and ice creams: and Lamb’s Ear, a decorative, silvery herb whose fuzzy texture and tapered leaves merit its shape. All make beautiful additions to any herb garden, along with the more well known basil, rosemary, marjoram and parsley.
The Blew Family
of Oak Grove Plantation
Located in Pittstown, N.J., Oak Grove Plantation has, since 1981 divided their focus between hog production and organic produce. The farm markets 95% of their produce at the Union Square Greenmarket. Available for potting are a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes and sunflowers, but also unusual herbs.
The Blews offer various kinds of mint: Chocolate Mint, Pineapple Mint (great for flavoring jellies), and Black and Orange Mints, which make wonderful teas.
The Blews also grow stunning basils- dark-leafed Opal Basil, which can be used to color and flavor vinegars; sweet tasting Thai Basil with its red leaves; Lemon Basil that tastes cleanly of citrus; and Genovese Basil, which adds greater potency to pestos than regular basil.
In addition, the Blews specialize in pepper plants, earning Susan Blew the title of Greenmarket “Pepper Queen.” Potted varieties include spicy, bell-shaped habaneras, bright red and hot cayenne thins, as well as jalapeños.