Summer Luxuries : Local Farms

Since my mother has been living with us this summer to help out with Liam, we thought of researching some fun, natural things we could do around Westchester County. We hiked around the Irvington reservoir with the dogs, walked the Old Croton Trail (from Dobbs Ferry to Yonkers), and ate by the water in Ardsley at the VE Macy Park.

Coincidentally, we visited our doula and friend Katherine Anderson and she made a killer fruit salad with local fruits. It was incredible! The peaches/nectarines reminded me of the fruit I picked in the countryside in France when I was a kid: tender, sweet juice dripping down my face…

Two days later, my husband Joe, my mother, and I were driving up to Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction to pick some of our own.  Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 5.11.29 PM

We were blown away by the amount of nectarines and white peaches on the trees. They were everywhere! Although a bunch of them were still hard and not quite ripe yet, we managed to collect a good amount of tender ones. We couldn’t help but share one in silence beneath the trees.

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By the end of our day, we had collected green beans, snap peas, green and yellow zucchini, tomatoes, Chinese eggplant (the cutest little eggplants ever), nectarines, white peaches, and yellow plums. Let me tell you that the flavors were so incredible that I didn’t know how I could go back to eating fruits and veggies from Stop and Shop (or even Whole Foods!)

Picking our own fruits and vegetables was so satisfying: the idea that we were picking just enough for our family, working hard for it, learning how each one is grown… Truly an amazing, even emotional experience for the three of us.

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When we got home, my mother sliced the tomatoes, drizzled them in olive oil and pepper, and tested us. She cut some store-bought tomatoes from Whole Foods and some we had picked at the farm… Would we be able to tell the difference?

It was 100% undeniable that the farm tomatoes were better — from texture to smell to taste. The store-bought ones were rubbery and tasteless in comparison! We couldn’t believe the difference.

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After such an amazing experience at Fishkill Farms, we decided to give another local farm a shot: Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown Heights. Such a different experience, but just as gratifying! We drove home excited, our trunk filled with organic treasures.

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We picked our own tomatoes, lunchbox peppers (even crunched on a few in the field!), green and purple beans (below), carrots, russet potatoes, fairytale eggplant, garlic, pearl onions, lettuce, zucchini, and raddish.

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The aromas! The taste!

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I will never forgot the emotion that filled my heart when I dug out my first bunch of carrots. I truly felt connected to nature in that moment, inhaling the real, unaltered smell of a vegetable that usually seems so bland in supermarkets. I felt like I had a newfound appreciation of nature, as if I had never really known what carrots tasted like before that simple moment. I was relieved to see that my mother felt the same way.

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After two incredible experiences, I am beyond excited at the thought of bringing my son Liam to farms in the summers… to watch him learn about nature, the way that things are grown and cultivated, to sweat for the food we bring home to eat. It is such a luxury to be able to pick our own crops locally and I can’t wait to share the experience with him when he is old enough!
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Do you know of any local farms worth visiting?20150728_135610


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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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