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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in Trillium Haven (2)


Trillium Haven Restaurant: Opening July 6

Chairs ready to unpack and set up, and some gorgeous lightThere is good news for Tender Foodies in Grand Rapids.  Another restaurant, the new Trillium Haven restaurant in the Kingsley Building (1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids) expects to be accommodating people with food allergies. 

But don't over run them right away, Tender Foodies.  It's always best for food allergy peops to wait a month or two before venturing into any new food joint.  Even experienced restauranteurs with the most educated staff and well-practiced systems have a pretty steep learning curve during opening weeks.  Food allergy training, and the prevention of food allergy-sized cross contamination are systems that can typically be last. So it's safest for people with food allergies to wait until any restaurant opening kinks have worked themselves out.

Executive Chef Joel Wabeke spent 5 years at working with the fabulous, and much missed Andrew Voss.  Chef Voss is a notable talent who always showed a great deal of respect for people with food allergies, from the service at the table to the deliciousness of the cuisine on the plate, and I am excited to see the magic that Joel will create. 

Anja Mast and Michael VanderBrug are the owners of this sure-to-be favorite in Eastown.  Staff memberw will be required to do a rotation on their Trillium Haven Farm, a well known CSA in Jenison that uses organic practices.  Owning both a farm and a restaurant puts Anja and Michael in a unique position to take the farm-to-plate concept to a whole new level.  When I spoke to Anja Mast, she said, "It will be like nothing you have seen before. It will be a different kind of dining experience." The farm will now completely support the restaurant, even during the winter months. 

I had a chance to see the restaurant pre-opening, during a Green Drinks event hosted by Trillium Haven and Guy Bazzani.  Here are a few pre-opening teasers I snapped with my iPhone.  The brick, stone, steel, and wood give a wonderfully grounded feeling to the space.  I'm excited to experience it with the sounds, aromas and hustle of a working restaurant.  You can be sure a review is in the near future. 

A wine rack over the bar.

The stainless steel bar.

Light sockets hung and waiting for their bulbs.

A large, wood table ready for assembly (note: this is slated to be the "coolest" spot to dine.)



Garden Organic: The Battle of the Blight

In the Beginning

It started last year with little black spots on my oregano.  I was surprised.  Maybe this plant (whose oils are usually powerful enough to resist anything) wasn’t getting enough sun.  But I was quite sure that Adam and Eve had never seen little black spots in their garden.  Then the spots spread to my precious mint and tarragon.   I did what the Internet told me to do and cleared out all of the infected leaves, bagged them and trashed them.  I started spraying every leaf with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water every single evening.  It seemed to work.  But after a week of heavy rain and strong wind, the blight spores waved their little victory flag and left that discriminating corner of herbs.   It attacked the zucchini (dead quickly) and then spread to my prized tomatoes.  Those flippin' spots soon felled so many leaves that the tomato plants looked like their proverbial loin clothes had been ripped off – love apples exposed.  My rosemary and cucumbers even got it (and I’m not saying anything proverbial about the cucumbers).  

The spots didn’t affect any of the vegetables directly until late in the season.  But without leaf cover, the produce throughout the summer was thin at best.  My plants were prematurely balding and not in a sexy, high-testosterone kinda way. 

And my greens.  Oh my 10 different varieties of health-giving greens that were so bountiful in the past provided no garden-to-table salad last summer.  

Lessons Learned:  Tenderly Nurture

The Fulton Street Farmers' Market in Grand Rapids, MI
In past seasons, I’ve learned that if you plant a seed, it comes up miraculously bringing joy and love to all with appetites.  I have also learned that 25 zucchini plants can fuel a small restaurant for 3 months.  

This summer, I thought my lesson was about control because infuriating stuff happens that interferes with the miracle of food and sends you to the grocery store instead of the dirt behind your house.  But my lesson is really about nurture.  A little knowledge from the experts can help keep the love coming from backyard to table.  

I found my first lead at the Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids, MI.

UnPesticidal Advice:  How to Control Leaf Spot

I had contacted several experts throughout the year and no one wanted to touch this one.  I almost gave up, dumped a bunch of manure on the land and left it for a year.  Or maybe forever.  But the gardening bug bit again this spring and I was so excited to play in the dirt that I simply I had to try.  

First Expert: Trillium Haven Farms

When I went to the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market a couple of weekends ago, I hesitantly picked up heirloom tomato and pepper plants.  Then I spoke to Trillium Haven Farm owners Anja Mast and Michael Vanderbrug.  We had a very interesting conversation and were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Rainy Day Advice From Michael VerBrug from Trillium Haven FarmsTheir Advice:  Build up the immune system of your soil.  Soil is like your own immune system and 75% of yours lies in your intestines.  Your intestines, like the soil, need a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals to absorb into your body.  Your intestines also need the right balance of friendly bacteria in order to digest those nutrients so they can be absorbed.  Maintain this delicate balance and you thrive.  

Plants need this kind of harmony in their soil’s immune system as well.  In my gardening life, I’ve learned that not all plants need the same mix of nutrients.  Some plants need more acidic soil where there is a lot of iron (like azaleas).  Some plants need more of an alkaline soil.  According to the National Gardening Association, tomatoes need a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. 

As Michael pointed out, if your plants don’t get enough of the specific nutrients they need, they simply can’t fight disease.

This is a concept that hits home for me, and for anyone whose own immune system has issues -- food allergy-related or otherwise.  Anja and I discussed plainly that we are what we eat – but not only because of the fruit or vegetables we put into our mouths.   We can truly benefit or suffer because of health of the soil from which our foodstuffs arise.  

So, good information, but how do you organically change the pH and nutritional content of your soil?

Second Expert:  Morgan Composting

Since you don’t know what you are going to get in your compost or aged manure from traditional companies, Michael recommended that I give Morgan Composting a call.  They sell completely organic, aged cow poo, worm casings… all kinds of earthy stuff for your garden.  They balance their products to enrich and maintain the health of your soil no matter what.  

I emailed Morgan’s and Alyson wrote me back.  Here is what she said:

First, our DairyDoo compost is a great start.  It will definitely get some good beneficial organisms in your soil to counteract the bad bugs...blight. I would apply it this year at a rate of 1/2 inch, over the entire garden.  This will ensure that the blight doesn't get into the walkways, and repopulate. If you did this, you will need about 2 yards (a pickup truck full).

Second, I would recommend using a summer foliar of fish Hydrosolate.  We use MultiBloom, which is real easy, and convenient to hook up to your hose. You can spray this once a week throughout the summer.   It is a fertilizer, but you would get more benefit from the essential oils, and also the minerals that fish has to offer.  It is also a systemic, and will go to work right away.  We sell those bottles for $12.95ea.

You can find these products at any of our fine local retailers, which are located on our website,

Third Expert:  Friends and Friends of Friends

I had also spoken to a coOrganic Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Plants from Trillium Havenuple of friends about their battles with blight.  Many gardeners are having this problem.  One person suggested lime (from limestone).  I asked Alysson about this at Morgan’s Composting.  She said that this might be helpful, as calcium can help in the battle of the blight, but the nutrients in the compost and oils in the fish Hydosolate will be the key.  She suggested getting a bag of high calcium (not dolomite, or high magnesium) lime.  The calcium content needs to be higher than the magnesium, because too much magnesium can cause a fruit rot in tomatoes.  So I picked up a 40 lb bag and spread half of it on the entire garden today.  If that goes well, we’ll do the other half.  It is supposed to be "non-toxic", and my dear father found me a pelleted version, so the dust was less annoying.  I didn’t wear a mask, but I would recommend doing so anyway.  Blagh.

Another friend of a friend battles blight in wet weather by dusting her tomato plants with powdered milk.  How interesting is that?  Since I have dairy allergies, I’ll stick with the lime.  This weekend, I’m hoping to start step two - building the immune system.  That is if I can get to the nearest Morgan’s retailer which will be a bit of a drive.   I bet it will be worth it.

Wish me luck!  Now go get your poo, then let me know about your gardening adventures and your battle with the blight.