The Fruits of Summer
By Julie Reardon
The Fruits of Summer
Starting with strawberries in May, the gardens in the Blue Ridge offer up tasty treats all summer long, but the bounty of the harvest is most abundant in late summer, where there is almost an embarrassment of riches in the form of local fruits and vegetables, herbs and homemade goodies on offer in the Blue Ridge. With consumer interest in locally sourced organic goods at an all-time high, more restaurants and independent markets and even some groceries have responded to the demand, but you can’t get much fresher than visiting some of the farm markets our area has for fresh-picked goodness.
Close in, most people know of or have driven by one of the area’s oldest farm markets, part of the 150-acre Avalon Farm on the southbound side of Rt. 29. The Buckland Farm Market is family owned and operated 7 miles south of Gainesville just over the Prince William county line in Fauquier County at 4484 Lee Hwy., New Baltimore and offers fresh and organically grown produce picked daily. It also has a large array of fresh baked goods including pies and breads along with jams, jellies and spreads as well as canned goods. In season, it’s open 7 days a week.
Another family owned and operated orchard in a postcard pretty setting is Williams Orchard near Flint Hill, also family owned and operated. “It’s a real farm, not a hobby. It’s our livelihood,” said owner Eddie Williams, whose family has been farming the scenic, hilly land there since 1921. He added that this has been a great year for peaches; their orchard grows 14 varieties including both white and yellow. “Once they ripen, you only have a 7 to 10 day window so you have to plant different varieties so they’re available late July through early September.” Along with the peaches, they grow a variety of apples too and right now they have a beautiful crop of Ginger Golds. He expects to have the popular Honey Crisps and Galas available early August. They have vine ripened tomatoes, green beans, peppers, squash, eggplant and more along with jams and jellies. The farm is a working cattle farm, so you can order a side or quarter of beef to fill your freezer, too. Williams Orchard is open seasonally 7 days a week from 9 to 5. It’s located at 3 Williams Farm Lane, Flint Hill, Va. Check out their Williams Orchard Facebook page or call (540) 675-3765.
Better known for its 5 star cuisine, the Inn at Little Washington, whose chefs used local meats and produce long before it became trendy, now has a market where the public can buy from their same producers on Sundays. The Inn’s Farmer’s Market is open Sundays from 10 am til 2 pm through October. Here you can find fresh organic produce, gourmet and pasture raised meats, artisanal breads and pastries, organic herbs and botanicals, soaps and beauty items, local crafts and more. There are usually sandwiches and/or barbecue too.
Take a drive and enjoy the bounty of the Blue Ridge!
PEACHES, PEACHES, PEACHES
So you came home with a bushel of ripe peaches you can’t eat fast enough, and you don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to can them. My late mother taught me an easy way to extend summer into winter months by freezing fresh peaches. It does not require the equipment or labor of canning, there’s no cooking involved, and you can freeze several quarts in a half hour. These frozen peaches are a real treat to serve in the winter, far surpassing canned or mealy grocery peaches. They make a tasty dessert served alone; you can toss them partially thawed into a blender for a frozen peach daiquiri, or drizzle them onto ice cream for a special topping.
Fresh Frozen Peaches (makes about 2 quarts)
8 large or 10 medium fully ripe peaches
½ cup demerara (raw) cane sugar
2 T Certo brand or other fruit preservative*, found in canning section of grocery
1 to 2 lemon* wedges
4 pint-sized or 2 quart-sized freezer bags
Wash and peel peaches, cutting away any bruised portions. Slice fruit into mixing bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and preservative onto the slices and squeeze the lemon over them and then mix gently, being careful not to bruise the slices. Let stand 5 minutes; the lemon and sugar will cause the peaches to form their own juice. Spoon the peaches and juice carefully into freezer bags and lay flat in freezer until solid. Once frozen they can be placed anywhere.
*Note: the lemon and preservative will keep the peaches from turning brown when you thaw them for later use. Lemon alone helps to an extent if you’re adamantly against use of any preservatives, and the brown color won’t affect the taste, but the peaches will not look as pretty. Use within 6 months.