What do you do in winter – part 2

This weekend, with the help of my two younger children, I made some nest boxes for American Kestrels, which are small falcons that prey on mice, voles, grasshoppers. earthworms, songbirds and other small prey. They are beautiful birds, and will be returning to our area once again in late March or early April. Females (left) are larger and have brown wing feathers. Males (right) are slightly smaller than females and have blue/grey wing feathers. Having them around the farm is a great way to naturally keep mice populations down. Mice can do significant damage in the apple orchard by chewing the wood around the base of the trees.

We built two boxes, and I will try and build a couple more to erect near the orchard. Starlings like to use these boxes as well. If kestrels really want a next box, they will evict the starlings. Having more than one box, however, will allow the starlings to have nesting boxes to use as well as the kestrels, and save the kestrels the trouble of fighting for their preferred box.

Now that the boxes have been made, I will need to put them up near the orchard in February or March before the kestrels return from their wintering locations in southern North America and Central America. I’m fairly confident we will have a pair nesting this coming spring. I’ll try to get some photos, and at the very least update you on the project.

Now I’m off to continue with ordering seeds and plants for spring!

 

What do you DO all winter?

That’s the most frequent question I’m asked once the farm is closed for the season. What do you do all winter? So as a new year is upon us, I’ve decided to post weekly (hopefully) blog updates to let you know what goes on behind the scenes here at the farm.

Today, I’m beginning to get plant orders placed. Just before the New Year, I had some quiet time in my office to get field rotations planned. The only fields that never change are the blueberries. Dad planted his first planting of blueberries in 1982. We have since planted again in 1990 and once more in 2004. Every year I order a few more to replace the plants that have died or have been removed due to disease, and a few to sell to home gardeners. The blueberry plants I order will come from a nursery in Michigan. The main large blueberry nurseries are all in the USA. It’s important to start off with the healthiest plants possible, free of virus and disease. I have been ordering from DeGrandchamp Farms for many years now. They provide high quality plants and are friendly to work with. In order to import plants, I must first apply to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for an import permit that lasts for 5 years. My permit expired last year, so I will need to do this once again early on 2019 to be ready to import the plants in April.

All of the other crops except apples, are planted in different fields from time to time. Changing what is planted in each field, each year, helps with disease control, weed control and soil fertility. In the photo below, you can see I have the fields all marked out using Google Earth. This is a really great tool that helps me know just exactly how many plants to order. Using Google Earth’s ruler function, I can measure my fields exact length and width. I can determine the number of rows per field and number of plants per row.

So I will start by ordering blueberries strawberries and raspberries. Apple trees were ordered last fall. Next week I’ll get on to seed – peas, beans, sweet corn and pumpkins.

Only about 130 more days until the farm opens with fresh asparagus!

Farmer Morris

Best Spots to Eat Local in Barrie

Best Places to Eat Local Food in Barrie

With our abundance of farmers markets in the Barrie area, eating local in the summer is an easy and delicious task. Once winter arrives it can get a little harder and your creativity will have to come out. There are still plenty of options however, and with a little planning ahead you can provide yourself with canned, jarred or pickled fresh local foods to feast upon once the snows come.

Winter Farmers Markets

Winter meals have traditionally been focused on roasted vegetables, slow cooked stews, colourful veggies and fruit thawed out of the freezer, or preserved items. But where to find these items if you haven’t had time in the summer months to squirrel away your own supply? In our area there are two main farmers markets that stay open year round and simple move their goods indoors: the Barrie Farmers Market, and the Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers Market. At either of these places you’re able to find plenty of options to fill your winter pantry, as well as crisp fresh foods that are grown indoors that will help keep you healthy during the darker months.

At the Barrie Farmers Market, located in the City Hall rotunda on Saturdays 8am-12pm, you’ll be able to browse from over 42 different vendors including local farms, chefs, bakers and specialized artisans. What better way to celebrate the holidays and supporting your community than by giving locally made foods and gifts. The Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers Market is located near the entrance of the Agricultural Society on Saturdays from 8am-1pm. They have over 37 different vendors that provide a variety of local goods including vegetables, maple syrup, preserved goods, baked items and specialty made products such as soaps and woodworking.

What Local Foods Can I Buy In the Winter?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are so many delicious local food options in the winter months, but taking a look at Foodland Ontario monthly availability guide will help you to plan before you head out to the farmers market. Many of these options come from indoor greenhouses, and by adding in these fresh items you’ll help to keep your immune system healthy and your taste buds from getting bored with stews and soups. Take a look through some of our recipes to find ways to incorporate local foods into your meals.

Even unexpected items like rhubarb are available fresh in Ontario from January to June. Called ‘forced winter rhubarb’, it used to be so common that at one point there were over 60 winter-rhubarb farmers in Ontario alone. Since the 1960’s the general public has forgotten about this tangy and crisp treat but it’s beginning to make a comeback. Grown indoors in darkened areas, the lack of sunlight means that it doesn’t develop it’s usual bitter taste, and stays red all the way through. A perfect mid-winter treat to bring out and amaze your family and friends.

Non-seasonal local foods like eggs, oils, honey, jams, maple syrup, fresh and cured meats, wine, cider and beers, cheeses, and fermented, canned or jarred foods are always available from Ontario farmers markets.

Farm-to-Table Restaurants

In the Simcoe and Barrie area there are several restaurants that serve dishes made using locally sourced ingredients. Why not spend your night out at an establishment that supports the community, the environment and your health.

Era67 is an Orillia based restaurant whose menu focuses on food that is in season and locally sourced whenever possible. They make all their dishes daily, do not use pre-packaged foods, and source their ingredients from local farmers markets and vendors.

Craving’s Fine Food & Market is a Barrie space that provides to-order foods and catering options. Their carefully curated menu uses local foods and in-season ingredients to create dishes that will satisfy everyone.

Ripe Juicery has two locations in Barrie, and one in Muskoka. They create cold pressed organic juices that strive to improve their customer’s health, and supports their local community by using local farm sourced ingredients.

Mad Craving’s is a modern bbq and bakery that creates mouth-watering foods from scratch using hormone and antibiotic free meats, and local produce from farms in the area.

The Globe Restaurant  is based out of Alliston and stays connected to its local farms and neighbours by using a farm-to-table menu inspired by seasonal food availability and sustainability.

Eat Local Year Round

Eating fresh and local year round doesn’t have to be impossible – even in our cold Canadian climate. From preserving your own local fruits and vegetables, to trips to the local farmers market, or a night out at a farm-to-table restaurant, you’ll be surprised at how easy eating local in the winter can be. We look forward to seeing you again at Barrie Hill Farms in the spring when our our farm market opens.

Top Recipes Featuring Locally Grown Ontario Foods

top-local-food- recipes-holiday-dinner

With the holidays and first day of winter coming up soon, there’s no better time to plan out a lovely dinner of local food recipes that will bring together your family and friends. From appetizers to dessert, we have all your local food bases covered in a delicious grouping of Ontario asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, and apples.

Ontario Strawberry and Blueberry Savoury Appetizers

It’s chilly outside, but your house is warm from the oven and filled with the mouth-watering scent of home cooked foods. Your family and friends arrive, cheeks red from the snow and ravenous from the drive – but don’t worry, you’re ready and waiting with two amazing appetizer options. The first is a Strawberry Jalapeno Salsa that pairs perfectly with your favourite cracker or some corn tortillas. It’s sweet and spicy flavours combine in a unique and tongue tingling way, and best of all you only need strawberries, Jalapeno, red onion, cilantro and lime.

If you think that your guests are amazed at your culinary prowess now, just wait until they see your Balsamic Blueberry Steak Crostinis. These delightful bite sized snacks are a perfect combination of sweet and savoury, and are completely customizable. This crostini recipe includes steak that’s as spiced as you want, your favourite soft cheese, a tangy green such as spinach or arugula, and an Ontario blueberry balsamic dressing. Not only does this dish make an impressive presentation and taste delicious, but the blueberries provide some amazing health benefits as well.

Ontario Apple and Asparagus Main Courses

Everyone has settled in by now, the wine and conversations are flowing and you’re ready to unveil the next dish – a winter chill-defying Asparagus, Spinach & Garlic Soup. This simple dish is made using only a few ingredients, but never fails to impress with it’s elegant presentation. You can add in milk or Ontario potatoes if you want to make it creamier or thicker, and the garlic in the recipe lends an extra savoury note to this humble but warming dish.

It’s time for the main event, and in a fresh twist on a classic dish you’ve prepared Oven Roasted Chicken with Apples & Grapes. The combination of meat and fruit will surprise not only your guests, but their taste buds as well. The addition of sweet Ontario apples and tart grapes brings out the natural flavours in your chicken and adds additional juiciness to the entire dish. This healthy and deceptively simple main course shows amazingly on your table and will definitely spark a conversation.

Nestled beside your chicken is the fantastically colourful Autumn Kale, Apple & Quinoa Salad that combines some of our favourite tasty superfoods. This salad looks complex but will only take you a couple minutes to prepare, and can be customized in a couple of ways to suit your taste. Barrie Hill Farms grows a variety of Ontario apples, all of which can be picked yourself from our fields. The Zestar! apple was chosen for this recipe because of its sweet-tart taste that can be compared to a Honey Crisp. It’s firm crisp flesh holds up very nicely if you want to make it ahead of time for dinner.

Local Strawberries for Holiday Desserts

Dinner is over and everyone is sated, smiling and nestled down by the fire to chat and laugh, but you’re not done yet! You have one last showstopper of a dish to finish out an amazing and delicious night: a Sugar-Free Strawberry topping. This super simple, three-ingredient dish is sugar free and can be eaten on its own or on top of any number of desserts. Pairs perfectly with a drink and some entertaining stories from the past.

Locally Grown Foods All Year Long

This is the time of year when we gather to celebrate the past 12 months, and what better way to do it than with local foods gathered from the fields in your neighbourhood. Here at Barrie Hill Farms we’re eagerly looking forward to spring, but until then are making use of our winter stores of fresh produce to create some delicious recipes for family and friends.

What is Farm Fresh Produce, and Why Does it Matter?

Farm Fresh Produce & Why it Matters

What comes to mind when you think of farm fresh produce? Does it bring to mind the simple pleasure of choosing a pint of local strawberries to take home, of deciding which pumpkin most clearly says ‘pick me!’ Or is it the knowledge that you’re choosing something deliciously good for your health, your hometown and your neighbours?

Local food is commonly defined as produce sold within 50 kilometers of where it was grown, but for some it also means food grown by people they know and can talk to at the farm market; food that supports small-scale values and a community-based focus.

The emphasis on what is in our foods, on where it is grown, how it is grown, and how that impacts the environment has become more mainstream in recent years. This is a change for the better, because our food has the power to improve our health and well-being as well as the our environment.

Health Benefits of Eating Farm Fresh Produce

It’s called farm fresh produce for a reason! Locally grown foods have a leg up on the competition when it comes to both nutritional value and taste. Once picked, fruits and vegetables begin to lose that nutritional value and so the longer they wait in storage the less rich in vitamin C, E, A and B they will become – so while that produce sits inside trucks and warehouses it’s losing that magic green power.

Local farms are able to allow produce to ripen much longer than imported, which adds to the nutrition value immediately. Also, how produce is handled after being picked also plays a part in its nutritional value; rough handling, mechanical harvesters or long transport can combine to reduce the quality, taste and nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

Environmental Positives of Local Farming

Of the pick-your-own farms in Ontario, Barrie Hill Farms is a leader in sustainable farming practices which help protect our environment. It is one of the first to have earned the designation of LFP Certified. This certification from The Land Food People Foundation signifies that we follow these guidelines in our focus to create sustainable agriculture for the future:

  1. To reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides and fertilizers
  2. Avoid the use of hormones, antibiotics, and genetic engineering
  3. Conserve soil and water
  4. Ensure safe and fair working conditions
  5. Provide healthy and humane care for livestock
  6. Protect and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity
  7. Reduce on-farm energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions

Water usage is a major environmental topic that many Canadian farms focus on. The use of drip irrigation allows us to deposit water directly to the plant’s root, thus minimizing the amount of water required. In addition, keeping the plants dry aboveground reduces leaf disease and fruit mold which helps us in our quest to reduce pesticides.

Choosing food grown from farms in Barrie also helps to reduce your carbon footprint in two main ways. The fewer kilometers your food has to travel from the field to your plate, the fewer transportation emissions are in our air! Local farming also helps to promote the preservation of our green spaces by encouraging youth to continue farming traditions, or even start their own local farming operation.

 

Local farming is just as important today as it was hundreds of years ago and though many of the reasons are different, many of them remain the same: our health, a connection to one another and our land. There’s no better feeling than biting into a strawberry pie made with fruit you picked from the soil yourself, or buying a pumpkin from someone who you know grew it locally.

There’s a lot of disconnection from our food sources in this day and age, and choosing farm fresh produce means making healthier choice for our bodies and the environment. Make Barrie Hill Farms a regular part of your meal planning for your own health and the health of our community.

 

 

Five Wintertime Tips for Making the Most of Ontario Farmers’ Markets

Health conscious Barrie dwellers who like to visit Ontario farmers’ markets in summer tend to lose enthusiasm for buying local foods once temperatures drop. It’s as though the first snow blanket over those pick-your-own strawberry fields tries to cover up all our good intentions for making eating local Ontario produce a priority. But eating local is easier than you think…even in winter months.

In fact, eating farm fresh foods after the growing season is not only possible—it can be economical and enjoyable, too.  By planning and preparing during summer months and applying these tips in winter, you can make the most of the many farmers’ markets Ontario has to offer and strengthen your community in the process.

Find a Year-Round Farmers’ Market Near You

If you’re wondering where to buy Ontario produce in winter, visiting a farmers’ market where local farmers bring their choice produce is a great place to start. You may be surprised to learn that Ontario has many year-round farmers’ markets taking place on Saturday mornings as well as other days of the week.

Here local farmers continue to offer healthy and tasty farm fresh produce and greenhouse goods at prices on par with big grocery store chains.  If you’ve never visited one in winter you will likely find it to be a different experience from the hustling hub you visited in summer.

Come November, farmers markets typically move indoors and take on a whole new vibe. New smells of fill the air—sometimes wood smoke, simmering soup, or fresh breads. The pace slows and people seem to linger longer and chat more. Local artisans share their woolly and winter wares. Comfort foods in the form of local meats, cheeses, honey, breads, jams and other prepared foods take centre stage. And the cozy and pleasant atmosphere creates an experience that is so much more than a trip to the grocery store could ever give.

Barrie has a year-round farmers market that takes place inside city hall on Saturday mornings. Orillia, Innisfil, and Elmvale-Springwater have winter markets as well. Although it may be a little out of the way, taking time on Saturday morning to visit a farmers market near you can offer you local seasonal produce while offering a very enjoyable shopping experience.

Do a Little Homework to Get the Real Bargains on Farm Fresh Produce

There are bargains to be had when purchasing fresh produce at farmers markets, even in winter. Barrels of potatoes. Bags of winter greens. Bins of squash. Vendors will often discount produce when selling in greater quantities and sometimes at the end of the market day. Knowing when to buy and what types of foods to look for can provide real savings.

However, if you don’t like the smell of rotting potatoes or finding half composted salads at the bottom of the fridge drawer you’ll want to be sure you are likely to use the food you purchase.

Knowing how long various types of produce stay fresh can provide some sense of certainty. Here is a list of common foods and the typical shelf life for each whether refrigerated, frozen, or stored at room temperature.

If you’re looking for something that’s not on this list do a little homework before you head out. Buying but not using produce is a waste and an inconvenience. Arming yourself with shelf-life knowledge will help you choose those foods you’re most likely to consume and save you money in the long run.

Be Spontaneous and Embrace What Local Ontario Produce that Winter Has to Offer

Some say you should make a list and buy only what’s on that list when you shop for groceries. But when it comes to sourcing foods locally, it’s good to go to market with an open mind, too.

Seeing, smelling, and touching the local produce in person is often the best determinant for what your body needs. Sometimes it’s not until you see that vibrant veggie that you realize what you and your family are craving.  And since winter produce such as squash, apples, potatoes, cabbage, onions, turnips, beets, and collard greens are incredibly versatile, it makes sense to wait and make those final choices in person.

You can also receive inspiration for delicious winter menus from those who grow the food you’re buying. Often, farmers will provide unique recipes for the ingredients they’re offering or provide special preparation tips for the produce on hand that week.

Slower-paced winter markets offer great opportunities to collect ideas from growers, vendors and information booths. Visiting them with an open mind for trying new or different things can help you enjoy local foods in a whole new way.

Plan Ahead and Stock Up at the Summer Farm Market

Although the above tips target the colder months, produce is obviously tastiest and least expensive at season’s peak. What foods do you miss most come winter? With a little forethought you can enjoy those and other locally grown food year round, too.

If you don’t know much about how to freeze produce or prepare preserves, winter may be just the time get started in your reading and gather your supplies.

You can also take this time to research and note when that produce in your area becomes available so you can buy in bulk at the most opportune times for flavors and savings.  This harvest schedule shows when the crops of Barrie Hill Farms are most likely to be in season.

Plan a Visit to Barrie Hill Farms

Making the extra effort to visit a local farmer’s market and buy local Ontario produce can be financially beneficial and personally satisfying. It can also help build community, protect our environment, and strengthen our local economy. We hope you will come see us at Barrie Hill Farms in the spring, summer and fall when our own farm market is open!

Found the Perfect Pumpkin at the Patch? Here’s How to Decorate it.

Kids decorating small pumpkins with their mom.

After finding your pumpkin at the pumpkin patch, it’s time to search for a little carving inspiration, perhaps while sipping a pumpkin spice latte!

Pumpkins will last a few weeks on your front step if left uncarved. We recommend carving only a few days before Halloween. If hollowing out a pumpkin isn’t your idea of a good time, you can try painting your pumpkins, or creating an artful pumpkin display on your front step.

However, to be sure that the kids in costume show up, it’s best to have your Jack O’Lantern lit up. It’s a signal to kids it’s okay to come knocking for candy.

The History of Pumpkin Carving

Carving pumpkins is a favourite pastime in North America. However, do you know the roots of this favourite children’s tradition?

It is said that the tradition of the Jack O’Lantern originates from Ireland, where strange lights appeared in the bogs and marshes at night. Not having an explanation for this natural phenomenon (which was caused by decomposing plant material coming into contact with electricity,) people created stories about a ghost doomed to wander the fields alone at night with only a lantern.

Later, it became a common trick for kids to scare the neighbours, running through the fields with hollowed out turnips and beets as lanterns.

Pick Your Pumpkin Right from the Patch for Best Results

You’ll get the best choice of pumpkin if you go directly to the farm to get it. Pumpkins are best when left to cure in the field for a few weeks. Kids love to get their pumpkin from the farmer, and many farms have special events and activities planned.  

Pumpkin Carving and Painting

Pumpkin carving is the traditional way to enjoy the season. To do this, simply remove a circle of pumpkin around the stem, pull it out, and scoop out the insides. Using a small knife (or a special carving tool), you can cut out shapes, spooky scenes, or a face.  There are a great many stencils you can download to use, as well.

If scooping and cutting don’t appeal to you, or if you have small children that aren’t ready to handle a knife, you can also try pumpkin painting. For best results, start with a very clean surface. Try a light solution of bleach and water to remove any bacteria that can cause rotting. Next, you can paint your pumpkin with acrylic paints. Try funny faces or spooky designs. Small painted gourds lend themselves well to a tabletop display.

The Teal Pumpkin Project

Halloween is a ton of fun, but it also poses some risks for kids with allergies. This great project helps to keep kids with allergies safe. Homes that provide non-food treats for kids with allergies can place a pumpkin that is painted in teal on the step to let parents know that safe treats are available.

The Teal Pumpkin Project can be another fun Halloween DIY project. Providing non-food tricks and treats is a fabulous way to be inclusive and a good neighbour!

Visit the Pumpkin Patch at Barrie Hill Farms

The pumpkin patch at Barrie Hill Farms is open from late September to the end of October. Visit us to find the you perfect pumpkin for Halloween.

Pumpkin Picking Tips for Kids of All Ages

A pick your own pumpkin patch in the sunshine

Picking your own pumpkins is the perfect way to celebrate the spooky season, and that’s why kids of all ages love it. Getting outside and finding the perfectly round or ‘perfectly imperfect’ pumpkin is an excellent way to enjoy the fall sunshine.  

In Ontario, we are fortunate to be close to the pumpkin farm.  This means you don’t have to settle for a store bought version.  Here are our tips for the best pumpkin picking outing – ever!

Dress Appropriately for the Pumpkin Patch

Don’t be afraid to dress spookily, but warmly. Make the occasion fun by letting the kids try out their costumes while they explore the pumpkin patch. Rubber boots, a warm hat, and gloves are always recommended for a chilly October day. For parents, we recommend a pair of work gloves and clothes that are easily washed, because sometimes the pumpkins in the field can be a little dirty.

Gather a Little Inspiration

Visit Pinterest for some great pumpkin carving ideas.  If you don’t like getting your hands gooey, try a fun craft, such as pumpkin painting. Think outside the box for decorating. Faces are fun, but for a more sophisticated front porch, you can use a power drill to make little holes in the shape of an interesting pattern. Once you have an idea in mind, you can start your pumpkin search.

What to Bring to the Pumpkin Patch

We recommend you bring paper towels and some old newspaper or a garbage bag to wrap your pumpkin to keep your car clean. You may want to bring some garden shears to cut the vine if it is still attached. Check with your farm to see if you can bring a child’s wagon to load your pumpkin haul back to the car. Bring a camera too. You won’t want to miss the perfect pumpkin Instagram opportunity. #pumpkinpatch

Pick A Pumpkin with Character

Natural lumps and bumps make great scary faces. Stems make creative pumpkin noses. Don’t be afraid to pick a pumpkin with character. The best pumpkins are the ones that are unique.  Your pumpkin patch may also have a selection of pumpkin ‘babies’. These are actually called ‘gourds’ and make excellent fall decorations.

Handling Pumpkins

Pumpkins that are ripe and ready for picking have an even orange colour, sound hollow when they are tapped and have a dried out stem. Clip the pumpkin from the vine, leaving 3-5 inches of stem. Pick up your pumpkin from the bottom, not from the stem, because it may break. Once you arrive home, it’s best to leave your pumpkin outside in the sunshine. Bringing it inside may cause it to rot before the big day.

Barrie Hill Farms has pumpkins available for picking in good supply from late September until the end of October.  For more information, visit our pumpkin picking page.

8 Reasons to Visit the Pumpkin Farm and Apple Orchard this Fall

Pumpkin Farm Barrie Hill Farms

Every fall should celebrate the changing of the seasons. But in the midst of back-to-school from summer vacation, homework, and a return to being busy, families often forget. But fall shouldn’t be all about work! Take a day off and enjoy the fall season: the crisp fall air, the colours of the leaves, and of course, a trip to the farm.

There are many, many reasons to plan a visit to the pumpkin farm. Here, we’ve listed a few of our favourites, and some you may not have thought of before:

The Pumpkin Farm and Apple Orchard is Close to Home.

Pumpkin Farms and Apple Orchards are always close by in Ontario. We have a proud agricultural tradition, as one of Canada’s best farming regions. It’s especially important to plan a trip to the country, even if you’re in the city. Let the kids discover first-hand where their food comes from.

Picking Pumpkins is So Much Fun.

Even big kids enjoy carving Jack-o-Lanterns. Some people look for the biggest, bumpiest pumpkin to make the scariest Jack-o-Lantern. Others look for symmetry. The perfect pumpkin is sitting in the field, waiting for you.

Pumpkins are Good For You.

Pumpkins are tasty when roasted, and so are their seeds. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamins A, C, and potassium, and high in fibre. They are high in iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and contain 3 different carotenoids. Try roasting pumpkin by cutting it up and seasoning lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Put the ‘Thanks’ into Thanksgiving.

Whether it’s roasted pumpkin, pumpkin pie, or other delicious fall treats from the farm, such as apples, you’ll feel grateful for the harvest. Feel connected to your food source and appreciate the freshness of farm-to-table eating.

Spend the Day Outside.

Don’t spend the fall indoors. When the winter comes, you have many indoor days ahead. Get your dose of fresh air and vitamin D. The added bonus is how well you’ll sleep at night.

Stock-up on Other Festive Fall Decor.

Your Pumpkin Farm or Apple Orchard often sells perfect items to decorate your home for fall. Look for multicolour corn, hay bales, corn stalks, mums and other items to make your front porch more welcoming.

Sweets to Take Home.

Fresh apple cider, sparkling cider, and baked goods are typical finds at your local farm. Set a pot of cider on the stove and let it simmer with cinnamon sticks and cloves to add a wonderful, warm scent to your home. While you’re at it, bring home some pie and other seasonal baked goods, as well as other locally-sourced goodies such as maple syrup or honey.

Postpone the Holidays. Just a Little!

Everyone loves the Holidays so much, it’s easy to see why the Fall is overlooked in preparations for December. But may we suggest leaving it until November? Savour the wonder of fall, the joy of the harvest, and make Fall last a little longer! Eating farm-to-table and discovering the ‘roots’ of our food, makes us slow down just a little bit – and that’s a good thing.

If you’re convinced, plan to make a fall visit to the pumpkin farm and the apple orchard at Barrie Hill Farms to fully appreciate the changing seasons and the delicious taste of fresh-picked apples and get your pumpkin for Halloween.

The Peak of Apple Picking in Ontario is September When Honeycrisp Apples are Ready

Honeycrisp Apple Picking in Ontario Barrie Hill Farms

Mid-September marks the peak of apple picking season in Ontario, with the release of a fan-favourite: Honeycrisp apples.  They are typically ready mid to late September in Ontario. As the days get cooler, apple picking is an excellent way to get outside and enjoy a crisp fall day.

What Makes Honeycrisp Apples So Delicious?

The secret to the amazing burst of flavour you get when you bite into a Honeycrisp apple is the cell size. The cells are actually twice the size of regular apples, and when you bite in, the cells rupture and release delicious sweet and tart juice. It is this difference that results in the signature Honeycrisp crunch.

Honeycrisp apples were discovered in Minnesota in the 60’s and marketed as Honeycrisp in the 90’s and quickly became one of North America’s favourite varieties. They have a relatively long shelf life, and are excellent for baking and applesauce.

Characteristics of the Honeycrisp Apple:

  • Yellow background, pink blush colour, with creamy white flesh inside
  • The sweet, tart flavour is maintained during cooking, making the Honeycrisp apple good for baking and apple sauce
  • Honeycrisp apples require cooler climates and do well in Northern States and Canada
  • They are the official state fruit of Minnesota, where they were invented
  • The Honeycrisp apple is popular in Canada, and is a favourite along with Gala and Ambrosia

Going Apple Picking in Ontario Means Getting the Freshest Apples Possible

Your local grocery store carries apples in the produce section. But you never know when your apples were picked, or how they will taste once you get them home. In fact, many apples are picked and stored for months before ever reaching your plate. This can result in a disappointing lack of taste, texture and crunch. We are so lucky to be close to our apple orchards, and to be able to feast on apples that are picked fresh. We should take advantage!

Apple picking is a great family activity and the start of a wonderful early fall tradition. Try bringing home a bushel for homemade applesauce and apple pies. You can put leftovers in the freezer to enjoy all winter long. In fact, you can even get a head start on your Thanksgiving baking by picking your apples in mid-September, and getting your holiday baking done early.

Try this Delicious Way to Enjoy Fresh-Picked Ontario Apples

This recipe lends itself perfectly to the crunchy texture of the Honeycrisp apple, but works just fine with any apple variety.

Thinly slice your apples and dress them up (just like you would for a cracker) for a tasty fall appetizer or movie-night snack:

  • crumbled goat cheese, honey and fresh rosemary
  • old cheddar cheese
  • a drizzle of maple syrup and pecans
  • peanut butter and raisins
  • soft spreadable cheese and cranberries
  • greek yogurt and rainbow sprinkles

There are so many ways to enjoy apples from Ontario apple orchards and there’s nothing like apple picking on a cool, crisp fall day. Plan to make Barrie Hill Farms your family fall tradition and go apple picking together!

Barrie Hill Farms has these apple varieties:

  • Sunrise
  • Zestar
  • McIntosh
  • Gala
  • Honeycrisp

Check here for availability.