Today we visited Cedar Grove, one of the historic summer houses of Fairmount Park managed by the Art Museum, for a tour. The history of the house, first located in Frankford and moved to the current location only last century, was fascinating, but we were there for the demonstration kitchen garden. Planted out in three raised beds, the kitchen garden was a mostly perennial combination of greens and medicinal plants.
We were invited to take shoots for our own garden, and dug up some Lovage – a perennial herb that looks and tastes similar to celery. PHS was also on hand with free seedlings and plenty of spring planting advice. It was an incredibly interesting and useful peek at a time when a garden might have supplied more than just food. Our favorite odd plant – Tansy, which was toxic and used to induce nausea in case of a bout of worms, for example. We left that one behind.
I’m not sure if it’s fair to simply call Whitesbog a farm. A restored village that once supported a thriving cranberry and blueberry production, Whitesbog is a beautiful slice of Pine Barrens history.
We visited during an art festival featuring site specific installations and a preview screening of an excellent documentary film called The Pine Barrens, but on any day a visitor can roam the 3,000 acres of bogs, trails and forest, stop in the general store that houses what was once the post office, and view the newly created Whitesbog Art Gallery.
One of the restored homes is that of Elizabeth Coleman White, granddaughter to the original owner and founder of the cranberry production. It was White who, along with Dr. Frederick V. Coville, through exhaustive research and experimentation brought successful blueberry cultivation to the entire region.
The bogs are only a short walk or ride down a dirt path from most of the buildings of Whitesbog, and you shouldn’t miss them. Like the rest of the Pine Barrens, it’s hard to stand amid them and remember you are in the most densely populated state in the country.
Last week we visited Beach Plum Farm, which in addition to operating a farm stand also supplies several restaurants in Cape May with fresh produce, eggs and pork. We’ve toured the fields before, but new this year was a large section of raised beds behind the farmstand with all manner of vegetables growing. The beds were beautiful, but by no means ornamental and already producing a serious amount of vegetables given their size.
We were excited to see tomatoes tied between two stakes with taut twine, as we learned to do years ago at Greensgrow Farm. The system works beautifully in small plots if you have the time to devote to keeping up with the growth.
These zucchini plants amazed us – when crowded as they are, the leaves just grow upward instead of spreading out.
We took note of the variety of corn growing here. These are much smaller plants than those we grew last year but with lots of ears already well formed.
Despite the ever expanding selection offered with Winter Harvest, it’s hard not to miss Headhouse Farmers’ Market once it wraps up for the season. Seems like as good an excuse as any to visit one of the many nearby farm stores. We went to two of our favorites on Monday: Griggstown Market and Cherry Grove Farm Store, both a few minutes away from one another in the Princeton area.
Cherry Grove Farm creates an amazing array of cheeses, the making of which you can often view right through the window at the Farm Store as you buy. We took home a Full Nettle Jack – worth it for the name alone, but also herby and creamy. The Farm Store also carries Cherry Grove’s own pasture raised meats and eggs, and dozens of products from local and regional farms and producers. The beeswax candle scented with lavender essential oil would have made a wonderful gift, but we were content to keep it for ourselves.
If you haven’t had a Griggstown pot pie, you’ve got a long, cold winter to correct that. My very favorite is chicken, but they do beef, turkey, vegetarian and Shepherd’s pies, along with whole and ground chicken and poussin, and a variety of meatballs and sausages. There’s even a prepared food counter, soups and chili, local milk and eggs, fruit pies and seasonal produce.
Both stores are open seven days and easily provide one stop dinner shopping.
This is exactly what it sounds like – sea salt produced in Cape May County, straight from the Atlantic Ocean. A partnership between Windy Acres Farm and chef Lucas Manteca, Cape May Sea Salt Company currently sells three different package sizes both online and at The Red Store and Windy Acres Farm. We got to see a bit of the production at last week’s Slow Food South Jersey Shore fundraiser.
The entire process takes place on Windy Acres farm, with meticulous distillation and drying housed in repurposed greenhouses once used for hothouse tomatoes. The result is large, brittle flakes that crumble beautifully over any summer dish.
To celebrate the end of Daylight Savings Time, we took a beautiful drive last Sunday morning to Wyebrook Farm, a little more than an hour from Philly in Honey Brook.
Wyebrook raises cattle, pigs and chickens, all to meticulous sustainable standards. Their meats, milk and eggs, some vegetables and a large selection of local cheeses and other products can be purchased at their market, while the cafe and restaurant serve lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
The brunch omelet, with fresh made sausage from the farm, was delicious, as was the “bread basket” full of beautiful little pastries and quick breads.
We took home fresh ground beef and chicken along with various other local items from the market. Definitely better than an extra hour of sleep.
Last weekend, after a fantastic dinner at the Red Store in Cape May Point, we spent the night at the Virginia Hotel in Cape May. On our lovely breakfast tray in the morning, along with a fresh egg, was an invitation to take a self-guided tour of Beach Plum Farm, which provides food for the Ebbitt Room in the Virginia, along with the Blue Pig Tavern and The Rusty Nail. (My attempt to shear off the top of the egg, Downton Abbey style, ended badly. Hence the cracks.) We couldn’t think of a better way to remind ourselves in this endless winter that spring would come soon.
The 62 acre organic farm, located two miles away in West Cape May, currently grows over 100 varieties of produce, along with cultivating chickens for eggs and pigs which the restaurant chefs aim to use nose to tail. All seedlings are started at the farm as well, and leftovers from the restaurants feed the pigs and create compost.