Friday, October 2, 2015

Sampling and Savoring the Produce of Rappahannock

The next morning I looked out of the French doors and saw that 3 of the chestnuts had been carried off, the tomato had yellowed and also had a few bites taken from it. Smiling at the squirrel's antics I grabbed my camera gear to go visit a couple of stops on the Rappahannock Farm Tour.
My first port of call was to visit some llamas but the directions given were so poor that I had to give up, after being deposited in the back of beyond on a narrow gravel track by my GPS. I then headed for the next place on my list, Woolf Lavender Farm. I drove past that too and had to turn around and return down the track, stopping when I spotted the sign on the way back. Named after Virginia Woolf's book, 'A Room of One's Own', it's on the side of a hill with a most spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They grow different lavenders, sage and rosemary plants, and also have some prettily painted bee hives.
I was invited inside and immediately my nostrils were filled with a delicious scent of lavender and sage. A still was being filled with chopped sage, ready to extract the essential oil, and lavender products were displayed in front of a window.
I was handed a cup of dark coffee with some sage floating on top, which was a delicious addition. Undone Chocolate, flavored with sea salt and lavender was fed to me, with lavender ice cream and fresh honeycomb also offered. Very very tempting yet I had to decline, it was a sensory overload, but in the nicest possible way of course. I was made so welcome that I really didn't want to leave. I had a mini tutorial on using a still and left with a lavender spray and some face cream. I would have enjoyed nothing more than to spend the rest of the afternoon sitting down on in a chair and drinking that tasty coffee while watching and smelling the activities, with an occasional glance at their outstanding view. I did meet another lady who came in as I was thinking of leaving and we chatted for a while, exchanging numbers and promises to meet up. She's another keen hiker and paddler.
Yet I had to leave, and it was done with a lot of reluctance, as a farm nearby was offering a Tomato Tour and I had to be there for 2pm.
Goat Hill Farm was given its name because the hill, thick with wild vegetation, was cleared by goats. The owner, John, wanted to make soft goats' cheese but the state wouldn't allow it, so he got into veggies, became a garden center, and then concentrated on tomatoes, growing over 120 different varieties. His fridge contains over 600 different varieties of plants.The driveway up to his house had an inviting tropical theme, lined with huge banana plants, which although they don't produce fruit, are beautiful, and survive our winters just fine, as the soft growth turns to mush after the first frost and then acts as a protective mulch for the roots.
But I was here for the tomatoes, and I licked my lips as I looked at all the little baskets on a tiki style bar area that held many different colored and sized fruits.
I did spot some nearby bee hives but was soon drawn back to the conversation when he sliced open a Speckled Roman tomato. Delcious! And then we started the tour, with John encouraging us to taste leaves and fruit as we passed, so I felt like a rabbit in a garden paradise, nibbling everything my paws came into contact with. I chewed on a bunch of different basils, some spinach that I'd never seen before, sage, and oh, so many different leaves that I lost count and couldn't remember half of the names. I just ate what he pointed at.
The place was delightful. One minute, he was taking us through benches loaded with pots of herbs, then we were walking down a hill, past a beautiful pond, and then through fields with rows of tomato vines, okra, eggplant, to name just a few.
We snacked and chomped our way through the tour, learning about how to grow asparagus and figs, Malabar, or Indian Spinach, how Amaranth is a very nutritious weed, how growing buckwheat and rye is nutritionally good for tilling back into the earth, and about Jimmy Marcelo peppers, which we saw growing here. These were apparently enjoyed by the Mafia, who ate them with sausage and onion. I also picked up 4 of the black walnuts in their green shells to see if my squirrel would enjoy those. He was getting spoiled this weekend!
And then all too soon, the tour was over and we were back at the tiki bar again. John cut up more tomatoes, handing pieces out, and my palm was always outstretched. There were even little currant tomatoes. I picked out a nice selection of grape, cherry and the larger tomatoes to take home, and some of those Jimmy Marcelo peppers to cook with sausage and onions, and also a handful of various basils to pop in the freezer.
It had been a splendid tour and I shall definitely be back. I'm thinking I'd also like a banana plant or two for the patio in the spring.
My last stop for the day was Lee's Orchards so I could pick some apples to take home.
I strolled through the orchard swinging my basket, enjoying the cool air. The dark clouds had been hanging low all day but like yesterday the rain hadn't fallen. I walked all round the orchard, enjoying the exercise and the wonderful fresh smells of sweet apples and grass blowing through the trees. My basket was soon filled so I sauntered back to the shed to pay.
When I got home, I looked out the patio doors and noticed the last chestnut had disappeared and a few more bites had been taken from the tomato. I placed the black walnuts carefully next to the tomato and hoped Mr Squirrel would be pleased.

No comments: