If you’re like me and don’t have space for an orchard in your backyard, there are some great local farms that will be glad to grow your fruit for you. Yesterday we visited one of our favorite farms —Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, MD — to pick our own produce. They grow fruit, veggies, herbs and flowers, and pumpkins in the fall. In the past few years we’ve picked peaches, apples, blueberries, blackberries, and more from their farmland, and the produce is always fresh and delicious. You can’t beat the experience of being out on a farm — it’s such a breath of fresh air (literally) from the congestion of DC. It’s about a 45 minute drive, which makes for an easy afternoon trip.
I also love their market — it has a great variety of locally-grown produce, and tons of home-made treats like jam, butter, honey and muffins. They also have really cool kitchen gadgets, cooking tools, garden resources and generally awesome food- and home-related stuff. I’ve stocked up on gifts there every time we’ve visited (and tucked in a few things for myself as well).
And for the kids, they’ve got a fun field of slides, climbing equipment, tractors, games and chickens (no feeding, just looking). We were lucky enough to be there when they were making their fresh kettle corn, and they happily gave the kids a warm sample (a smart marketing ploy, since we ended up buying two huge bags to bring home).
Weekdays are great — there are few visitors, so we had the farm to ourselves.
This isn’t a petting zoo, but a real egg-laying farm — you can buy the fresh eggs at their market.
Each week brings a new selection of produce that’s in season, so check the website or call before you go to know what’s currently being picked. This week they’re picking the tail-end of blueberries, and early season blackberries and raspberries. They also have a beautiful field of cut-your-own flowers and herbs.
Yesterday we picked blackberries. The kids and I couldn’t believe how many berries were on the vines. A quick estimate from my son led to the conclusion of “a thousand million.” I’d say that seems about right. They’re huge and juicy and our fingers were stained purple from all the picking.
“A thousand million” blackberries.
Of course now we have more than we can possibly eat, so I may need to turn some into jam.
(Jam side note: I made jam for the first time last fall, and I was so excited about my new undertaking. I was feeling very homestead-y, and I envisioned my entire cupboard stocked with jam that I could share with all our family and friends. I had plans for Christmas gifts, teacher gifts, gifts to share with neighbors — so many possibilities. Oh how awesome it was going to be to have all our own home-made jam! So anyway, we went and picked a ton of blackberries and peaches, I came home and followed all the jam-making instructions, and lined up my dozens of sterilized mason jars and lids. And here’s what resulted:
Our bounty of home-made peach and blackberry jam.
Sooooo… I learned that apparently it takes LOTS and LOTS of fruit to make jam. Lots more than we had. So I was able to give about a tablespoon of each flavor to my parents, and that was it for the gift-giving. The other 1/4 cup of jam we hoarded all for ourselves. Anywho, now I know better and my expectations are a bit more realistic.)
Ok, back to the farm. We also picked some basil. Even though we have some growing in our garden, I couldn’t resist. It was enormous and deep green and so fragrant — unlike the very parched and limp basil that’s left in our containers. This will be delicious with our tomatoes and some mozzarella.
Future pesto and caprese salad.
I am also a complete sucker for sunflowers — I don’t think I’ve ever passed one up. There was one in the field that stood heads above the others, so my son decided that should be the one to come home with us.
There is nothing more lovely to me than a sunflower in summer.
And that was our farm day. This is peak harvesting season, so we’ll be back again soon for their next wave of fresh produce.