Archive for the ‘NoVA Locavore’ Category

Virginia Grown: Apple Picking at Stribling Orchards

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

#foodietotsapplefest

We were recently in a small market in our neighborhood picking up one or two things, when the boy picked up a shiny red apple and tossed it in the basket. I admit I felt more than a little silly telling him to put it back — but we had a bag full of fresh, local apples at home. The last time we were in the same market, I let the kids buy two of the waxy, Grown in Washington labeled apples, only to have them take a few bites and toss the rest. My kids are apple junkies, but there’s no time like fall in Virginia to appreciate the difference between supermarket fruit and fresh, local varieties. There are a number of orchards within an hour or so drive from Washington, DC, but we tend to return to Stribling Orchard just off I-66 in Markham, Va.

picking apples at stribling orchard

Stribling has a couple perks that make it the ideal apple picking destination for the 5-and-under crowd:

  • You can pick up bags, but then drive into the area of the orchard where you want to pick.
  • Sticks. Sure, the small trees have plenty of fruit within easy grabbing reach, but these cool picking sticks can be used to reach the primo fruit up high. If you have boys, you know what a powerful draw this is!
  • Bathrooms. Actual running water bathrooms — for the essential hand washing before picnicking.
  • Food. On the weekends they set up a grill offering burgers and hot dogs, and sometimes full barbecue (ribs, chicken and pulled pork). There’s also the bakery and store where you can find fresh baked cider doughnuts, pies and preserves.

apple picking sticks at stribling

Of course, it can also be quite crowded on the weekends so try to arrive early and be prepared for lines at check out and those bathrooms. Here are a couple tips gleaned from our annual apple-picking adventures.

Tips for a Happy Apple-Picking Outing:

1. Hats and sunscreen are essential. Stribling, and many other local orchards, are on top of hills which offer gorgeous views — and full sunshine.

2. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting mucky and put kids in long pants. There’s a lot of spoiling fruit on the ground and the kids will be traipsing through tall grass and other brambly undergrowth.

3. Try to find the variety you most want first. Once kids get on a roll picking, there’s no slowing them down and they may fill their bag at the first tree.

favorite find at stribling orchard farm store

apple by nikki mcclureGIVEAWAY: So you’ve gone apple picking and now you’re wondering what to do with all those apples? I’ve started an Apple Fest board over on Pinterest. Pin your favorite apple recipe, then share a link in the comments here so I can repin it to the board — or tag your pin #foodietotsapplefest & I’ll find it!

Every apple recipe posted below or tagged on Pinterest will give you one chance to win a copy of the gorgeous book Apple by Nikki McClure. You can “like” FoodieTots on Facebook and leave an additional comment below for an extra entry (or note if you’re already a fan). Contest is open to US residents only and will close at 11:59pm Eastern on September 30. Good luck, and happy apple eating!

blue skies at stribling orchard

New MOM’s Organic Market Opens in Merrifield

Friday, September 14th, 2012

We’re long time fans of MOM’s Organic Market, but moving away from the Alexandria location has made it harder to visit — until now. MOM’s has opened it’s newest Virginia location in Merrifield. (Technically it’s in Fairfax but just outside Falls Church.) Merrifield is the site of the coming-soon Mosaic District shopping center which will also have a Red Apron Butcher (yay!) and Target (for those less organic needs). The ninth store in the local MOM’s family, the Merrifield store is holding it’s grand opening celebration this weekend, Friday 9/14 through Sunday 9/16, with lots of great samples and kids activities. The littlest foodie tot and I got a sneak peek today.

mom's organic market merrifield

It may have helped that it was lunchtime, but the tot walked through the aisles exclaiming, “Purple milk? I LOVE purple milk. Bread? I LOVE bread. Cheese? I LOVE cheese,” and so on. (We also took home two free loaves of Spring Mill bread — a locally-baked favorite.)

local products at mom's organic market

After we finished shopping, we shared a beet burger and blueberry muffin from the Naked Lunch counter. (They’ll have kombucha on tap, if you’re into that sort of thing.) If you’re local, you’ll want to head on down and check it out!

Naked Lunch at MOM's Merrifield

MOM’s Organic Market – Merrifield
8298 Glass Alley
Fairfax, Va.
momsorganicmarket.com

FRESHFARM Week: Meet Toigo Orchards

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Farm two in our FRESHFARM Markets Week is Toigo Orchards of Shippensburg, Pa. Of all our local market vendors, Toigo is probably most likely to be a household name. Not only do they appear at a dozen markets around town, their produce is on the menu at Clyde’s and other restaurants and you can find their applesauce, pear butter and bloody mary mix — even fresh produce, in season — at local MOMs and Whole Foods grocery stores.

toigo at whole foods

I first met Mark Toigo at a Slow Food DC dinner in 2008, but the Toigo family has been farming at Toigo since 1972. They practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which emphasizes natural and eco-friendly pest prevention. With over 21,000 apple trees (450 acres of fruit), they offer plenty of variety each fall and my foodie tots have always enjoyed their generous samples at market as they select their apples each week.

toigo orchards tasting table

In addition to the apples, peaches and tomatoes Toigo is known and loved for, you can also find extra special items like quince and chestnuts, in season. And cherries, stone fruit, pears, the cutest pickling cucumbers, honey and more.

toigo at slow food

Try our peach tomato panzanella with some of Toigo’s fresh fruit this summer — you won’t be disappointed. Or, try Clyde’s Peach Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping or Emeril’s Roasted Toigo Pears with Honey and Goat Cheese.

quince from toigo orchards

Find Toigo Orchards at FRESHFARM markets at Crystal City, Dupont Circle, Penn Quarter, and the White House, and the Del Ray, Arlington, Falls Church, Glover Park, Reston, Bethesda Central, Columbia Pike or Takoma Park farmers markets.

FRESHFARM Week: Me(a)t Smith Meadows Farm

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The capital’s own FRESHFARM Markets is celebrating their 15th anniversary this weekend. Led by co-founders Ann Yonkers and Bernadine Prince, the now 11-market network in the metro Washington area (DC, Maryland and Virginia) has been promoting “local food with a face, a place and a name” throughout the Chesapeake foodshed since July 4, 1997. Alice Waters herself shops the original Dupont Circle FRESHFARM market when she’s in town, and local chefs proudly feature FRESHFARM farmers on their menus all across town. There will be an official celebration Sunday, July 15, at Dupont. Leading up to the big day, we here at FoodieTots are going to introduce just a few of our favorite FRESHFARM producers — the farmers we know by name and whose products grace our table every week.

Up first is Smith Meadows of Berryville, Va. You see, I believe in meat. I support Meatless Monday not because I’m anti-meat, but because I believe we should think before we consume it. And when we do, it should be healthful meat raised with care by farmers who are dedicated to the environment. Grassfed meat is richer in nutrients, leaner, and free of GMO feed and other bad things that come from feedlot meat.

smith meadows short ribs

Smith Meadows is an eighth-generation family farm that converted from conventional farming to natural methods in 1989. Farmer Forrest Pritchard practices rotational grazing of the farm’s cows, lambs, pigs, turkeys and chickens on pasture that is never treated with chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Nancy Pritchard makes fresh pasta each week from their free range eggs, organic flour and herbs, produce and cheese either from their own or other local farms {lemon verbena pasta pictured below}. Smith Meadows’ eggs are often the first to sell out at the market. We’ve enjoyed their brisket, pork, turkey, lamb and much more over the years.

smith meadows pasta

You can find Smith Meadows each week at FRESHFARM Dupont Circle — and at the Del Ray Farmers Market in Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church markets.

(You can learn more about what it takes to run a farm like Smith Meadows on Farmer Forrest’s blog or find them on Facebook. You know we’re on Facebook, too, right? Get all our latest posts, and more, right in your news feed.)

Where to Pick Strawberries This Weekend {Virginia}

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the pinnacle of strawberry season here in the DC area, though our earlier-than-usual spring means we’ve already been enjoying them for weeks. (As evidenced by, well, my last ten posts, give or take…). Assuming you’re not sick of them yet, here are a few favorite places to get out and pick your own in Northern Virginia:

strawberry patch at wegmeyer farms

  • Great Country Farms Bluemont, Va. (note: GCF charges admission, but is basically a farm adventure land for the kids. Check the website to see about special events.)
  • Hollin Farms Delaplane, Va. (also has pick-your-own seasonal vegetables)
  • Wegmeyer Farms Hamilton, Va. (see comments below)
  • Westmoreland Berry Farms Oak Grove, Va. (on the Northern Neck, they serve barbecue fare and ice cream/strawberry shortcake in season)

foodie tots at Wegmeyer Farms, Va.

A few things to note for a successful berry picking trip:

  • Go early and ALWAYS call ahead to check picking conditions. The farms around here tend to get picked out quickly on nice summer days, and this weekend is sure to be busy.
  • Dress the kids in dark colors (or red) to avoid stains and wear appropriate footwear (e.g., not the flip flops my toddler refused to change out of. They were new, after all, and a girl can’t be separated from her new shoes.).
  • Bug spray and sunscreen/sun hats are a must.
  • You can’t plop a toddler down in a field of the freshest berries she’s ever seen and not expect her to nibble — so be courteous and round up your tab at check-out to cover any excessive in-field consumption.* And if you hope to have enough leftover for jam, you might want to buy twice what you think you’ll need.

We went to Wegmeyer Farms earlier this week, an easy under-60-minute drive from Arlington, and loved it. The berry patch is a manageable size (and easy walking distance from parking) for younger kids. There are a couple picnic tables but unlike some of the larger farms (Great Country and Westmoreland have full-service concessions) you’ll have to pack your own lunch.

The 19th Annual Delaplane Strawberry Festival also takes place this weekend, May 26-27, if you just want to spend the day in the country and celebrate nature’s most perfect berry.

If my kids leave any, we’ll be making strawberry shortcake this weekend. You?

virginia grown strawberries

*The foodie tot heard the farmer say, “Go ahead and taste ‘em,” and promptly shoveled three in her mouth.