Strawberry Picking at Legend Hills Orchard
Just two weekends ago, my husband and I laid our heads down on our pillows, slept under the soft Friday night light of a Strawberry Moon, and dreamed of fields that went on forever… As a result, we woke up bright and early the next morning hungry for the sticky sweet taste of strawberries and a day that began in an orchard full of perfectly ripe fruit waiting to be picked.
With tall travel mugs full of freshly brewed, steaming hot coffee, and the largest basket we owned, we set off to find the field of our dreams.
This year our annual search for strawberries led us to Legend Hills Orchard in Utica, Ohio where we spent a blissful morning under a big blue sky with our basket.
The heat was stifling and the sun was harsh, but we persevered with the patience of monks, selecting only the most beautiful berries in the field. Gently we pinched the berries off of the stem taking great care not to harm the plants. Most of the berries went in the basket, but not before tasting a few… and it did not take long to fill our basket with 13 pounds of the ruby red gems of late spring.
As predicted, this year’s strawberry crop was incredible! The lack of rain in Central Ohio produced strawberries that were perfectly formed and very petite compared to the varieties that are often found in the grocery store. A bite into each and every one revealed a perfectly ripened aroma, drenched in heady pleasure and a fresh juicy sweetness that had no need for sugar. It is no wonder that the strawberry was chosen as a symbol for the goddess Venus as each berry concealed an inner complicity that almost made them too sensual to be enjoyed out in public…
Currently, the Strawberry Season is winding down in Central Ohio, so be sure to get out early this weekend and find somewhere local to experience the pleasure of picking your own berries while they are warm from the sunshine and still very much alive.
Legend Hills Orchard, located just South of Utica, Ohio, has been owned and operated by Dick Hoar, his children, and grandchildren for the past 45 years. It is a great year round source for farm fresh fruit and sustainable local foods as they consistently carry a wide variety of local honey, Ohio cheeses, and syrups. On the shelves that line the store, you can find a treasure trove of apple butter, Amish pickles, jams, jellies, dry goods such as noodles, Watkin’s products, hand made baskets, cookbooks, a selection of fruit that is in season or has been wintered over, as well as more local and sustainable items then I could ever begin to list. During the Spring, Summer, and Fall, Legend Hills is a bustle of Pick Your Own activities. However, it is during the cold blustery days of Winter that I like to wander in to Legend Hills, where I am always greeted with a warm smile and a wide selection of local harvest goods that have been preserved during the height of the harvest season. Just a short scenic drive from Columbus, Legend Hills Orchard is a “Must Seek Out Place” for anyone wishing to eat local and sustainable throughout all of the four seasons.
Our other purchases that day, included a quart sized Ball Jar filled with my favorite local honey from Bob Benge’s Apiary in Pataskala, Ohio and a pint Grade A-Medium Amber Ohio Maple Syrup bottled by The Brown Families in Fredericktown, Ohio.
I resisted the urge to buy a new market basket, for now…
However, I did note that apples are kept in winter storage right up through Spring making it possible to eat local fruit all winter long in my region. I imagine a clever cook could combine these apples with a good portion of strawberries to make a freezer safe Strawberry Apple Sauce…
Although that particular idea was tempting, I was on a mission to try my hand at canning my very first batch of homemade Strawberry Jam. (I will post the recipe and pictures tomorrow.)