Matthias van den Berg is like a proper boy next door: popping by every now and again for an afternoon visit, ready with a friendly wave on the sidewalk as you leave for the night and even willing to help you fashion a crude hook from his materials to try and fish your bike out of a canal.
That's what we love about him and why we're so excited to eat him today. It doesn't hurt that he's a bang-up gardener extraordinaire and that his space under the tunnel a few doors down from the Cropbox kitchen is literally bursting with fresh, growing, alive herbs and flowers that make us feel... well all those things.
Inspired as a little boy by the explosion of life he witnessed in spring, Matthias knew early on that gardening and landscape design were what he wanted to pursue. He was lucky enough to live in the countryside, surrounded by fruit tree orchards, farms and communal gardens where he would work.
After living in Amsterdam for many years, building a life as a successful landscape designer, making his mark on gardens and outdoors spaces around the city and beyond (including the design, construction and management of the entire garden for the Hoftuin restaurant), Matthias realized there was an interesting need for city dwellers who wanted (or needed) to create their own urban garden space.
Of course most homes here have limited outdoor space, he noticed, and a traditional flat garden bed would use too much of that precious resource.
But he also knew that access to fresh food for families around Amsterdam was an issue that could be tackled. "[It would] keep me up all night until I came up with the rough idea for a planter that would grow plants vertically," he says.
Enter his labor of love and pretty genius creation if you ask us: the Vertical Garden Tube. The tube covers a space of about 30 by 30 cm, roughly the size of a paving stone. With a traditional vegetable garden, you could grow about four plants in that space, but with the Vertical Garden Tube, you can grow 48.
That's twelve times more!
"It’s always good to know where your food comes from and I believe growing food truly gives people a lot of pleasure," Matthias says.
So not only a gifted creative and plant-whisperer, but an incredibly smart guy and someone who wants to share his love of nature and the life he witnesses each day with the world.
Thank you, Matthias for the life-giving, inspiring work you do and for sharing it with us today!