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Farm to Table

Mar 29, 2012 06:15AM ● Published by Style

During the growing season, we northern Californians are blessed with an abundance of delicious and nutritious fresh food – much of it available “just for the picking!”

TIPS FOR
HAPPY PICKING
1. Always call or email the farm before you drive there to be sure they have what you want and are open.

2. Pack for a day trip. Kids and adults alike may require hand towels, wipes and something to eat and drink. Enjoying a picnic lunch can be a big part of the fun. And don’t forget the camera!

3. Bring your own containers for picking and taking the food home. Some farms provide picking containers, but often for a fee.

4. Dress in old clothes, long sleeves and worn athletic shoes. You will probably get dirty and the ground could be wet. Extra layers in the spring/fall will keep you warm, and a hat in the summer will keep you from getting sunburned.

5. Have a Plan B in case the weather changes. Check out other indoor opportunities as a backup plan.

6. Follow instructions the farm gives you upon arrival. Explain to your kids how to identify and pick the particular fruit or vegetable you are harvesting.

If you’ve never experienced picking your own fruits or vegetables before, why not take advantage of all that’s available here? If you have children, what better way to teach them about healthy eating than to have them pick their own dinner? The U-pick season gets started next month around Memorial Day with a variety of fresh berries – think strawberries and cream, warm raspberry crisp or blackberry pie!

Berry Heaven might be just the place for a spring outing with the family. Established in 1852 and located in Garden Valley – just five miles from both the historic mining town of Coloma and the American River – Dean and Terrie Cook took over in 2011 and Berry Heaven was born. Offering U-pick blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, Berry Heaven’s harvesting season is long, starting in May and going until October or November. Many of their blueberries are late-harvest varieties, which means the fruit is available all season long. Thornless blackberries are also very popular and available for picking August through October. Not to be missed at Berry Heaven are Jujitsu and Carlos, the roosters who watch over the 17 laying chickens that provide the farm with fresh eggs daily. The chickens keep company to Nigerian dwarf goats Bootsie, Miss Pickles and Zack, along with their “children,” Sweet Potato and Sauce. Berry Heaven, 5170 Marshall Road, Garden Valley, phone/fax: 530-333-9037, berryheavenusa.com.

Down the road and just off Highway 49 near historic “Old Hangtown” Placerville, you’ll find the American River Cherry Company. Shirley Rice and her husband, Dr. Reginald Rice, own this farm in the hills of Placerville, near the American River. The family-owned business has been in operation since 1984, when the couple moved from Boston to this hilltop site. Here in their “backyard,” as they call it, they’ve planted 15 acres of cherry tree varieties – Rainiers, Vans, Olympus, Cashmere, and of course, the old standby favorite, Bings – all available to pick or purchase pre-picked. ”This is a great place to take the kids,” a happy visitor shares. “They have cherries, raspberries, blueberries and more. It was hot when we went and the kids got tired, but there’s a nice koi pond near the picking trails with shade where they rested for a while.” American River Cherry Company also sells to local stores and restaurants, but U-pickers are the biggest part of their business. American River Cherry Company, 2240 Dias Drive, Placerville, 530-626-3881, americanrivercherryco.com.

 

Lemons For Limes

Have an abundance of zucchini growing in your garden, but longing for lemons? New Folsom-based Web site, lemonsforlimes.com, enables gardeners to connect and share their produce with one another. Here’s how it works: become a member ($5.95 for a year; $1 goes to the clean water organization, Samaritan’s Purse) and receive an unlimited number of trades. List the produce you have available, and then search for fruits/veggies from other green thumbs in your area. All trades are done on a point system, which means you can share tomatoes with other members in August, and save the points earned to pick up limes from a member in the fall. If there’s an item that’s not offered, enter it on a “wish list” and receive an alert when it becomes available. This site is a fun and useful tool for home gardeners with an abundance of fresh food! For more details, visit lemonsforlimes.com.

If you’ve lived in the Sacramento area for very long, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Apple Hill. Located just off Highway 50 in the hills above Placerville, this area is widely promoted as a recreational destination, especially in the fall during apple harvest. Many of the farms, however, are open year-round for family fun as well as delicious food. The Apple Hill Growers Association (applehill.com) located in Camino, Placerville and Pollock Pines, was once a fledgling association comprised of 16 original ranches; today, it boasts more than 50 ranches including Christmas tree growers, wineries, a micro-brewery, spa and vineyards. The Apple Hill area has uniquely rich soil, a sunny western exposure, and an ideal climate that produces some of the best fruit in northern California.

Acquired by Stan and Joan Geel more than 20 years ago, Sun Mountain Farm in Camino is typical of the small farms in the Apple Hill area. In addition to U-pick apples, blueberries and pumpkins, the farm was expanded to include wine grapes, which are also available to home winemakers by arrangement. The farm offers peaceful and friendly surroundings to picnic or just relax and enjoy the view at 3,000 feet in the Sierra Foothills. Stan began his career in agriculture and gained experience in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand before leaving a university career and coming to Apple Hill. The Geels personally manage the growing practices on their farm with strict attention to sustainable agriculture methods and underlying scientific principles. Sun Mountain Farm, 3000 North Canyon Road, Camino, 530-621-3740, sunmountainfarm.com.

Denver Dan’s Apple Patch, established in 1962, is one of the oldest ranches in Apple Hill. The story of owners Dale “Denver Dan” and Pat Martin is truly a family one. Dale moved to El Dorado County with his family after World War II and graduated from El Dorado High School before joining the Navy and serving in Korea. By the time he returned home in 1955, his parents had built a house and planted the first couple of acres of apple orchards. His parents’ wedding gift to him and Pat was an acre of land across the pond from their house. Dale quickly enlisted the help of family to clear the rest of the property and plant apples. While trying to figure out how to sell all the apples he was growing, Dale delivered to grocery stores, fruit stands and fellow employees at Western Electric, where he worked. It was here where he became known as “Denver Dan the Apple Man” and Denver Dan’s Apple Patch was born. Dale and Pat were part of the original Apple Hill Growers Association, and combined their efforts with those of their neighbors to start marketing Apple Hill.

Typical of many of the larger farms in the area, Denver Dan’s offers a “back-to-the-farm experience” that includes a wide variety of activities for both adults and children. In addition to the U-pick apples, the bake shop and the handmade craft sales, visitors can also attend cooking classes, take guided tours, attend classes to learn about all the animals on the ranch, taste jams and other food products, learn how to make an apple wreath, and enjoy country picnics while the kids get their faces painted. Many customers now visiting Denver Dan’s and Apple Hill, include parents who visited when they were young, and are now bringing their own children, and sometimes even their grandchildren! Denver Dan’s Apple Patch, 4354 Bumble Bee Lane, Camino, 530-644-6881, denverdansapplepatch.com.

 

Placer County also boasts its share of fruit and vegetable farms. The Auburn area is especially well known for its Mandarin oranges. Satsuma Mandarins originated in Japan more than 700 years ago and were first introduced to the U.S. in 1876 by way of Florida. The first Mandarin trees were planted in Placer County in 1880 when Welsh settlers established the town of Penryn. In 1949, Frank Poirer of Loomis was the first Mandarin grower in Placer County to operate a fully equipped fruit processing and packing facility.

Two winter freezes, in 1972 and 1986, almost completely destroyed the citrus trees in the regions; each time, however, the Mandarin growers replanted the trees.

More than 30 Mandarin growers throughout Placer County make up the Mountain Mandarin Growers Association (mountainmandarins.com), encompassing Auburn, Loomis, Lincoln, Newcastle and the surrounding areas. 2012 will mark the 20th year they have produced the “Mountain Mandarin Festival” at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn the weekend before Thanksgiving. Harvest season, from November through January, is a great time to visit the orchards and taste this delicious fruit.

Placer County also features many other fruit and vegetable farms open to visitors. Amber Oaks Raspberries, located off Mt. Vernon Road, has been in operation since 1980. Timothy and Rhonda Boughton are the business owners and have lived and raised their three children on the farm since 1988. Amber Oaks is a U-pick farm offering seasonal fresh berries, chestnuts, Mandarins, kiwi, tomatoes, rhubarb, and many other varieties of seasonal produce. “We grow over 100 different items and have products year-round,” says Timothy. “Our farm is open for U-pick on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, June through November by appointment. We also accept orders year-round on available items and attend many farmers’ markets.” In addition, Amber Oaks welcomes school groups for educational tours in the month of October. The Boughtons, like all U-pick growers, are avid proponents of the mantra “fresh from the farm – it’s the best.” Amber Oaks Raspberries, 2770 Shanley Road, Auburn, 530-885-3420, amberoaks.wordpress.com.

In an age when more and more of our food is processed and treated with pesticides, and many of us long for the “good ol’ days,” visiting some of the many farms right here in our area will be a welcome diversion.

 

AREA FOOD FESTIVALS

APRIL

Stockton Asparagus Festival
asparagusfest.com
April 27-29, Downtown Stockton

California Nut Festival
californianutfestival.com
April 21, Patrick Ranch Museum in Chico

Apple Blossom Days
applehill.com
April 28-29, Apple Hill Growers Area

MAY

Strawberry Festival
galtchamber.com
May 19-20, Veterans Field in Galt

BerryFest
feedmestrawberries.com
May 12-13, Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville

JULY

Marysville Peach Festival
marysvillepeachfest.com
July 20-21, Downtown Marysville

AUGUST

Woodland Tomato Festival
woodlandtomatofestival.com
August 11, Freeman Park in
Downtown Woodland

Sacramento Banana Festival
August 10, William Land Park in Sacramento

SEPTEMBER

Honey Festival
pchoneyfestival.com
September 16, Ron Feist Park in Granite Bay

OCTOBER

Loomis Eggplant Festival
loomischamber.com/eggplantfestival.cfm
October 6, Loomis Train Depot

NOVEMBER

Mountain Mandarin Festival
mandarinfestival.com
November 16-18, Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn

 

LOCAL FARMERS’ MARKET SCHEDULE

Foothills Farmers’ Market Association

GRANITE BAY
5550 Douglas Boulevard (Quarry Ponds Town Center)
Sundays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
June 5-October 16

ROCKLIN
6636 Lonetree Boulevard
Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Year-round

AUBURN
Auburn-Folsom Road at Lincoln Way
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
Year-round

Bell Road and First Street (DeWitt Center)
Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
June 8-October 26

FORESTHILL
Main Street
Wednesdays, 4 p.m.-7 p.m.
June 8-August 24

ROSEVILLE
Galleria Boulevard and East Roseville Parkway (The Fountains)
Tuesdays, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Year-round

1545 Pleasant Grove (Mahany Park)
Thursdays, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
June 2-September 29

TAHOE CITY
Commons Beach Road and North Lake Boulevard
Thursdays, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
May 25-October 13

KINGS BEACH
Highway 28 at Bear Street
Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
June 14-September 6

TRUCKEE
10500 Brockway Road
off Highway 267
Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
June 7-October 11

Donner Pass (near the train station)
Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
June 16-August 25

El Dorado County Certified Farmers’ Market Association, Inc.

CAMERON PARK
Burke Junction, corner of Coach Lane and Strolling Hill Road
Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
May 23-October 17

EL DORADO HILLS
Highway 50 and El Dorado Hills Boulevard (Town Center Parking Lot)
Sundays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
May 20-October 28

1021 Harvard Way (El Dorado Hills Community Center)
Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
June 7-October 18

FOLSOM
900 Block Sutter Street
Sundays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
June 10-Mid October

PLACERVILLE
Corner Main Street and Cedar Ravine (Ivy House Parking Area)
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
May 5-November 17

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
2732 South Lake Tahoe Boulevard (Highway 50)
Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
June 5-October 9

 

GUIDE TO EATING SEASONALLY:

WHAT’S IN SEASON WHEN?

Apples    July-December
Apricots    June, July
Asian Pears    July-December
Beans    June-October
Blueberries, Boysenberries, Raspberries    May, June
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage    November-May
Carrots    March-June
Cherries    May-July
Cucumbers    April-September
Eggplant    June-October
Fava Beans    April, May
Figs    June-September
Grapefruit    March, April
Grapes    July-October
Jujube    October, November
Kiwi    October-February
Mandarins    November-February
Melons    July-September
Meyer Lemons    December-April
Onions    April-June
Oranges, Kumquats    January-April
Pears    August-October
Peas    March-May
Peaches, Nectarines    May-September
Peppers    July-October
Persimmons    October-December
Pomegranates    September, October
Potatoes    January-December
Pluots    June, July
Plums    June-October
Radishes    November-May
Rhubarb    February-July
Salad Greens, Spinach, Arugula    January-December
Strawberries    April-August
Summer Squash    June-October
Sweet Corn    July-October
Swiss Chard, Mustard Greens, Kale    May-February
Tomatoes    June-October
Winter Squash, Pumpkins    November-March

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