Debbie's Blog

Van Till Family Farm Winery

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The Pawpaws are ready to pick!

Though we are really busy in the middle of grape harvest and have tanks of wine, at different stages of production, that have to be monitored and grapes ripening in the vineyard, we make time to keep an eye on the fruit trees in our gardens.

The pears are ripening and will soon be turned into Pear Dessert Wine (port).  But, there is one kind of fruit tree that I think I will use for cooking and not for wine.

There are two Pawpaw trees in our Wine Barn Garden and the fruit is ready to pick!

Pawpaw Tree in Wine Barn Garden

Pawpaw Tree in the Wine Barn Garden. This tree is 10 years old and about 12 feet tall.


The race is on to get the fruit when it just ripens, but,  before the raccoons or the opossum.

More Pawpaw Fruit Ready to Pick

Pawpaws ready to Pick.


Pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) are native to North America, growing wild in much of the eastern and Midwest portions of the United States.

The fruit tastes similar to a banana, and can be used in recipes similar to how one would

use a banana.

This month Chef Matthew is making a special dessert with the ripe pawpaws.  He’s

made a wonderful Pawpaw Cake and Pawpaw pudding topping to accompany the cake.

This will be on the menu and served in the Wine Garden this weekend. Should be very tasty.

Now, which wine will we pair with that?




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Beauty and the Beast in the pasture.

With a very wet spring and pleasant temperatures, everything has been growing wonderfully, even the weeds.

Thistles in pasutre

Thistles in the pasture

As I was trying to eradicate the thistles from the farm, I came across this patch of

Austrian Peas blooming.

Austrian Peas in Pasture

Austrian Peas in pasture at winery.

We had planted them last fall in a cover crop.  The seeds germinated in

the cool weather then waited until the warmer weather of spring to grow.

Planting Covers in Pasture 2018

Cliff planting cover crops in our pasture at winery.

They have such delicate and pretty flowers, that

provide good nutrition for the livestock, but also have deep roots that allow lots of

water to penetrate and enrich the soil.

We will let the blooms turn into seeds so they fall onto the soil and they will

be ready to germinate in the fall.

Though there is plenty to see in the walking trails at the Wine Garden, looking over

the wall and past the trees gives our guests the peaceful scenery of the pasture and

hay field.


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Gardening Through the Eyes of a Child.


How many of you got your start with gardening

by following your garden mentor around during a garden tour.

I did.

And, if you were a young child, you were

allowed to be amongst the adults if you were quiet.

One had to be very quiet and that meant not saying anything

but listening to their conversation.

I don’t think it was just being around the vegetable plants

in the family garden that made me want to follow my mom around as she

showed her older sister, my Aunt Katie, the garden.

aunt katie and uncle al

Aunt Katie

I think it was seeing the garden through my mom and my aunt’s eyes.

They would ooh and ahh over the rhubarb and the tomatoes. And of

course admire the compost pile too! That is gold to many gardeners!

Now, granted, my mom had 7 children to make sure the weeds were

pulled, and plenty of boys to turn the compost pile and do lots of

the hard digging and pulling, but here were two grown ladies, with a

young girl in tow getting such delight out of looking at all the plants.

Fast forward a few years, and  in the same way,  I love showing visitors the

gardens that we have here at the winery.

I think a connection was established for me between people and plants

as I followed my aunt and mom around that inspires me even today.

There is a lot of pleasure in showing  guests how they too can grow the

same plants that we have, develop some of the same gardening skills

that we use and bring a little joy to their friends and family like we do

here at the winery through a garden at their homes.

Touring the garden

Touring the garden.

I would definitely attribute some of

my understanding of the joy plants can bring people was through watching the relationship my mom and aunt had during their garden tours.

So, come and enjoy our gardens and bring a friend and build that fun relationship

around your walk through the garden.

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Yes, Fresh Figs in Missouri



If you have lived in the south or have been to California,

you may have fond memories of tasting fresh figs at the farmers market or

picking them from a tree.


Moving to the Midwest, where the weather doesn’t just dip below freezing

for a few hours but stays there for days on end, which isn’t good growing conditions for figs, doesn’t mean that one needs to give up eating fresh figs.


Figs do grow in Missouri.  The first time I saw them growing outdoors was at Powell Gardens.

There was a row of plants next to a building and they were more like shrubs

than the large tree in our yard as a youth in Southern California.   But, to my amazement,

these shrubs did produce figs.  And if they could grow them, I figured, I could too.

After planting a rooted cutting, in our Courtyard here at the winery, I anxiously

waited for the plant to get big enough to produce figs.

I can laugh about it now, but I was a little discouraged during the first summer, since the plant got cut to the ground twice

by the well meaning gardeners whose weed eaters didn’t recognize an edible plant!

These young men hadn’t ever seen a fig tree or bush.

It would have helped if I had put a wire fence around it the first time, but

nonetheless, I planted another rooted cutting and this time I did protect it!  This year was the 3nd summer and it was loaded with figs!

Figs Fall 2017use also

See the brown figs just ripening this September. They were sweet and so good!

Figs ripen from the bottom to the top of the branch, so I would regularly check the bush throughout the fall for ripe figs.  They continued to ripen up to the first frost.

Figs Fall 2017 use

Here’s another shot.

Chef Marc featured a pizza special this fall topped with figs and paired it with our Missouri Chambourcin Wine.  He also included figs in a topping for his Pumpkin Soup that he was serving as an appetizer in the Wine Garden.  He and Wine Club Manager, Stephen, had paired this with Missouri Chardonel Wine.  To use figs in a savory dish was new for me, since our figs were always eaten up fresh.  That just gives me a reason to plant more next year.

In the years to come, guests can be on the lookout for the figs growing in our farmscape.  Maybe, some will be inspired to grow their own. Or, maybe seeing the fig leaves or fruit will just bring back memories of a time when figs were  enjoyed fresh.

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Amazing Amaryllis

Dutch amaryllis, Hippeastrum create a welcome show of beauty during the winter as many are given as gifts during the Christmas season.  But if you haven’t seen amaryllis bloom outdoors in the summer, you are invited to come out to the winery and see the display of amaryllis in full bloom in our gardens.

Amaryllis 2017

Here’s how we did it.

Last year the Amaryllis bulbs were kept in the wine cellar

where it was cool and dry until mid-March when they were planted in pots and brought out into a warm 65 degree environment and full sun.


They were grown outdoors in full sun as soon as the weather was above freezing.

Amaryllis 2017 6

The spent blooms were cut off, which is also known as dead-heading, and the  bulbs were watered all summer where they kept growing large and beautiful green leaves when kept in full sun.

Amaryllis on Porch

September 1st, we stopped watering, but kept the plants

outdoors in the full sun as the bulb begins to wind down and the leaves begin to dry up.

Amaryllis 2017 10

the pots were moved indoors where it would be above freezing and dry.  It can be in the dark during this time.

Do not remove the bulb from the pot as amaryllis don’t like to be disturbed.

Now, your amaryllis are ready to be brought out again in the spring and

your amaryllis have been trained to be summer flowers.

Amaryllis 2017 5

In California, my Grandfather Wagner loved amaryllis and propagated them.

IMG_0927 (002)

He and my grandmother lived at Newport Beach and then moved to the dessert in Hemet, CA and his amaryllis came with him.  his amaryllis would bloom during the summer and to see my amaryllis blooming in the summer reminds me of his influence in my life.

Amaryllis Wine Garden

Looking forward to sharing our love of wine and plants

with our guests!

In the garden or vineyard these days,