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As seasonal produce rolls in, many of us have one more stop on the way home: the perfect side dish to the evening's dinner, courtesy of our local farmstand. Whether it's freshly picked native sweet corn or beautiful berries for a shortcake surprise dessert, we winter-weary Nutmeggers know better than to let prime produce pass us by. "Seasonal" means peak flavor and freshness, which makes for extra special meals (or snacks: blueberries anyone?), so now that the season's bounty is up for grabs at Connecticut farms, markets, and farmstands, we offer our favorite fresh-food destinations in the region.
To find other local farmstands and markets, visit the state Department of Agriculture online at www.ct.gov/doag.
WHITE GATE FARM
Find it here: 83 Upper Pattagansett Road, East Lyme
Hours/season: Wednesday noon to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., year-round. Call to schedule a guided tour of the farm.
Products: Some of the most unique seasonal fresh organic produce, plus lamb, poultry, eggs and flowers. Exotic greens, from Dinosaur Kale (Pauline hands out a divine New York Times kale salad recipe), French mache and claytonia (Miners' Greens) to Japanese Hakurei turnips and Happy Rich, a delicious Asian green that looks like broccoli rabe but tastes like broccoli. Scrumptious pestos - cilantro, parsley and kale, not just basil - hot sauces, crunchy artisan breads, frozen Cornish hens and, new this year, Vermont cheeses.
The draw: It's like Mecca for locavores and foodies. Farmers Pauline Lord and David Harlow have definitely helped to define the movement in southeastern Connecticut, through Dinners on the Farm, New England's original farm dinner benefit series, and now nutrient dense farming. Reading Pauline's weekly e-mail updates is half of the experience; it's been a trying year to raise chicks and turkeys.
Contact info: White Gate Farm, (860) 739-9585, whitegatefarm.net, firstname.lastname@example.org
HUNTS BROOK FARM
Find it here: 108 Hunts Brook Road, Waterford - a stone's throw beyond Waterford Country School
Hours/season: Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., into October.
Products: All of the seasonal favorites. Right now: head lettuce, kale, beets, kohlrabi, fennel (bulb), new potatoes, basil, garlic, scallions, cukes, dandelion greens, radishes, braising greens, Zephyr zucchini (part yellow, part pale green, a yummy, slightly nutty variety). You missed the sugar snap peas, which customers raved about, and the red, white and blue potatoes for July 4. Coming on strong: tomatoes, summer and Middle Eastern squashes, peppers, beans. Watch for updates on berries. Great bouquets of fresh-cut flowers.
The draw: Rob and Teresa Schacht are a hard-working young couple, committed to growing a healthy, flavorful mix of veggies and berries for farmstand fans, as well as their 55 CSA members. They don't know why Rob's grandmother, now passed on, named him "Digga" but it's apt for this organic farmer. Co-farmers Paul Clark and Nicole Totino add a mix of medicinal herbs, plus newsy FaceBook updates. Look for great weekly garden-based recipes and photos, too.
Find Hunts Brook Farm at Waterford Farmers Market, Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., July through October, at Town Hall.
Contact info: See huntsbrookfarm.wordpress.com, or on Facebook, email@example.com, 860-443-1770
MAYNARD FARM MARKET
Find it here: 1057 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook
Hours/season: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Season runs from Memorial Day to October, with pumpkins and firewood after Labor Day.
Products: On a recent visit, strawberries, peaches, corn, several types of peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, melons, several types of beans and more joined baked goods, firewood and potted evergreens in the inventory. More gourmet food items like jams available inside the market.
The draw: Native strawberries and fresh-picked corn keep me coming back. Beyond the great selection of produce (OK, and the baked goods, including delicious pies), Maynard's takes advantage of its prime spot on the Oyster River and offers kayak rentals and tours right from the farmstand. Bikes available for rent, too. Plus, I like a market that's been family owned and operated since 1958.
Contact info: (860) 395-0664
Find it here: 12 Orchard Lane, Gales Ferry
Hours/season: Every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The winery is only open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. from May through early November. Tastings are $6. Pick-your-own is open July and August on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and from Labor Day weekend to Halloween every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Products: The farm market carries fresh produce that is picked daily as well as fruits grown in-season including peaches, nectarines, pears, berries and more. During apple-picking season, more than 20 varieties of apples are available.
A bakery offers pies, cookies, muffins and more goodies that are baked daily. The market also offers cheeses, jams, chocolate, coffee, tea and more.
The draw: Holmberg Orchards is an unexpected treat. Offering a farm market with a great selection of produce, a pick-your-own option and tastings at their own winery it's easy to spend a good portion of the day here. The staff are friendly and always available to answer your questions. Don't know what to do with the fresh fruit you just picked? Visit the website for user-friendly and delicious recipes. Be sure to call or visit their website for the most up to date information on pick your own, as sometimes they close early due to over-picking.
Contact info: (860)464-7305, www.holmbergorchards.com
PANFILI'S FARM STAND
Find it here: 142 East Haddam Road, Salem (right near the on-ramp to Route 11)
Hours/season: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily 'til November
Products: All manner of fruits and veggies, plus lots more (read on for details). A good deal of the produce is Connecticut grown. Among the multitude of offerings on a recent day are native raspberries and blueberries, and the items expand beyond produce to honey from Salem and maple syrup from East Hampton. And baked goods. Don't forget their pies and breads and cookies and ...
The draw: Pick up a Panfili's business card, and you'll see the phrase "More than just a fruit stand." They're not kidding. It's the add-ons that make this farm stand such fun. It's not just that the baked goods are delicious (although, heaven knows, they are), or that the plants and nuts and everything else are enticing. It's that you can also peruse the giant outdoor collection of metal yard ornaments recreating, oh, the Statue of Liberty or human-sized pink flamingos. Whimsy is not lost here.
Contact info: (860) 886-2376
- Kristina Dorsey
ED'S FRUIT & PRODUCE
Find it here: corner of Route 2 and Main Street in North Stonington.
Hours/season: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, beginning end of June until October, depending on weather.
Products: Corn, tomatoes, peaches, plums berries, peppers, cukes, onions, beans, lettuces, some herbs, potatoes
The draw: Take a gander at nrp.org's article on how industrial farming destroyed the tasty tomato and you will be reminded of why we should be so grateful to the local farmstands in our area. No. Sto'ers know how to dodge the casino and beach traffic, making Ed's not as difficult to get to as you'd expect.
For others, just the quality of tomatoes and the varieties of corn available are worth maneuvering the back roads. Owned and grown by Ed Kokoszka of New London, Ed's stand has remained in its original location for nearly 15 years - probably because there's nothing genetically altered in those feed bags you see replenishing the bins at almost every visit. Credit cards are not accepted, but personal checks are.
Contact info: (860) 961-9445
SCOTTS YANKEE FARMER
Find it here: 436 Boston Post Road, East Lyme
Hours/season: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week from April to December
Products: Farm-grown corn in two varieties, golden honey and butter and sugar, plus greens, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, zucchini and garlic. Jams, pies, apple-cinnamon doughnuts. Pick-your-own strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, pumpkins and flowers.
The draw: This is a family-operated 120-acre farm that has served the public well over the years with some of the sweetest corn I've ever tasted and a range of fresh fruits and vegetables. Scotts is one of only a few farms in our region that lets you pick your own fruit (and flowers and pumpkins) in the summer and fall. I don't mind foraging my own berries, not just because it's cheaper than buying them at the farmstand but also because it's fun and I can be my own quality control agent.
Scott's also offers a $100 CSA (Community Suppported Agriculture) program that's more flexible than other CSA programs. Instead of getting a box of random produce every week, you can go to the farmstand whenever you want and pick only what you need. Your purchases are deducted from your CSA account, debit-card style. Unused money rolls over to the following year.
Contact info: (860) 739-5209; www.scottsyankeefarmer.net; find them on Facebook for their latest updates.
HERB'S COUNTRY STORE
Find it here: 1105 New London Turnpike, Montville
Hours/season: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed from Christmas through two weeks before Easter
Products: Seasonal fruits and vegetables. Currently you'll find beets, carrots, radishes, corn, blueberries, peaches and eggs
The draw: A commuter on Route 32 in Montville could be forgiven for not noticing Herb's, a hidden gem tucked next to a restaurant of the same name. The country store offers a little bit of everything, from flowers and candles to maple products and jams.
But the stars, according to 81-year-old Herb Plotnick, who runs the store and restaurant with his son Jeff, are the fresh fruits and vegetables from farms in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Long Island.
Contact info: (860) 848-1936
Find it here: 93 Black Point Road, Niantic
Hours/season: Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week from the last weekend in June 'til Labor Day
Products: Blueberries and raspberries, asparague, squashes, melons, corn, tomatoes, fresh-cut flowers
The draw: The grandchildren of Luigi and Concetta Scotti still run the little farmstand their grandparents opened in 1944, and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original customers still shop there.
Rita Scotti Dart and her sister-in-law, Janice Scotti, are still apt to be behind the counter, although Janice's son, Christopher, has taken over the managing of the stand. On weekends, other cousins come to pick the Scotti farm's berries and other produce.
The little shed that started it all is still part of the only slightly expanded stand.
Location was everything during World War II gas shortages and food rationing, and it still is. Luigi and Concetta first sold their produce from a truck to vacationers arriving at Crescent Beach and Black Point. By 1944 they were able to buy the farm across the street from the railroad overpass and open the stand on the curve in the road that has long since become an icon of summer in Niantic.
Janice and Rita say their corn has traveled as far as Alaska and California in the luggage of nostalgic customers heading home. And I get that.
But as the granddaughter of one of those original customers I make a pilgrimage there for the very taste of summer: the sweetest, most fragrant cantaloupe anywhere. It's a whole other fruit from any melon in the supermarket, and they'll sell you half of one if that's all you can use.
Contact info: (860) 739-8309