Monday, April 15, 2013

Farm Stands of Erie County

As the weather turns, my mind wanders to the fresh produce available all over Erie County. The ready access to farms is really one of the true blessings of living here. 

Below I've compiled a short sampling of some of the farm stands below. If you know of more, by all means leave a comment and I'll be sure to include them in a future post. There are also several online resources to find farm markets: click on Consumers, then click on A Consumers Guide to PA Farm Markets.

Troyer Farms

Travelling out Route 19/Peach St, 8.7 miles from the I-90 interchange, the road runs straight into Waterford and in the middle of town a farm stand is set up for the well-known Troyer Farms.  This stand carries the strawberries in early summer until the corn, cabbage, and squash of fall.  Early summer strawberries are well know and worth the trip, this June.  Everyone I talk to enjoy a very simple preparation that highlights the natural sweetness of the berries:

1 quart strawberries, stemmed, washed, and halved
¼ cup of sugar
Mash a handful of berries, and combine mashed berries with remaining berries, and sugar in large bowl.  Allow to sit at least one hour, for the berries to start yielding their juice.  Serve over biscuits, with whip cream.

Finnell Farms

About 1.7 miles on Route 20, from the light in front of Harborcreek High School is Finnell farms.  This stand carries a variety of fruits and vegetables including strawberries, corn and peaches.  The peaches are particularly fantastic from Finnell’s.  While I love to eat peaches, just like an apple, below is a preparation will knock your guest’s socks off at your summer dinner party:

1 peach per guest
1 quart vanilla ice cream
Wash peaches, leaving skins intact split peaches in half and remove pits.  Place peach, cut-side down on a very hot grill.  Grill for 60-90 seconds.  Serve in a bowl with a scoop of ice cream. 

Mason Farms

Driving out Route 5/ West 12th street 6.6 miles is the roadside stand of the venerable Mason Farms.  Most Erie residents are familiar with Mason Farm’s store on Peninsula Dr.  However, when the weather is good and the vegetables are in season the scenic drive down Route 5 is worth the time.  As a certifiable corn snob I simply won't purchase corn on the cob from a grocery store. For my taste there needs to be a little road dirt on the husk for the corn to taste right.  My favorite preparation combines two of my Erie favorites:

6 ears of fresh corn, shucked
1 bottle of Erie Brewing Co.’s Railbender Ale
Combine corn and beer in a stock pot with just enough water to float the corn.  Bring to rolling boil, and hold at boil for 6-8 minutes.  Add butter and salt to taste.

Hulings Blueberries

Just off of Route 99/Edinboro Rd on Old State Rd, about 4 miles south from the blinking light in McKean is Hulings Blueberries.  Don’t let the name fool you, they’ve got more than blueberries, Including Pennsylvania maple syrup.  However, the blueberries are worth the drive by themselves and if you don’t pick up the syrup, here’s a easy blueberry sauce to cover your pancakes:

2 ½ cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine berries, sugar and ¼ cup of the orange juice in sauce pan, and warm over moderate heat.  In separate container combine remaining orange juice and cornstarch, breaking up any lumps.  Bring sauce to boil, and stir in cornstarch mixture, allow mixture to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, allow to cool 5-10 minutes.

Perry Square

If a country drive, won’t fit in your schedule today that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy fresh produce for dinner.  Depending on what is currently in season, there are between 2-4 farm stands set up in Perry’s Square in downtown Erie most days.  The stands carry a variety of fresh produce, but it is hard to top fresh tomatoes.  Store-bought tomatoes have to be harvested early in order to clean, package, and ship before they spoil.  Farm stand tomatoes, may have come off the vine yesterday or early this morning.  Here’s a delicious dinner idea that may not be the best for date night, but is delicious anyhow:

2 tomatoes
2 white onions
2 pieces of rye bread, toasted
1 cup cottage cheese

Wash tomatoes, then slice the tomatoes and onions into slices of equal thickness.  Alternate layers of onions and tomatoes, adding salt and pepper to taste on the tomatoes.  Serve on toast, with a dollop of cottage cheese on the side.

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