Tag Archives: hour children

Kids in New York Apple Country!

20 Oct

Despite regional flood damage from Hurricane Irene, New York apple country is thriving and our charming villages are greatly recovered. 

I was thrilled to take 20 kids from Hour Children apple picking at Wilklow Orchards, in an historic area of the Hudson Valley under two hours north of New York City. Thanks to a sponsorship from super-chic Z Hotel in NYC and the orchard’s discount, the kids enjoyed a hay ride, hay jump, a greenhouse filled with crafts and inflated bouncy play rooms, farm fresh snacks and carried home bags of apples that they picked themselves! Wilklow is not only kid friendly, but welcomes leashed dogs too!

The time is still right to pick apples in New York State, our nation’s second largest grower of this more beloved fruit. Click here to learn where to come pick your own apples!  And every orchard is surrounded by other delightful attractions.

You can skip the crowds by visiting a farm on a weekday. Wilklow Orchards, for example, is open for picking from Labor day weekend to Halloween, October 31st, 9-5 daily. You’ll find a great assortment of apples, including Macintosh, Gala, Cortland, Jonamac, Empire, Jonagold, Mutsu, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rome. I saved room in my bag for  gourmet Winesap! For an authentic taste of New York heritage, seek out the Northern Spy. Chefs love this crisp and tasty apple with an uber-cool name and you will too. It originated in New York more than two hundred years ago.

Many orchards will supply you with a pre-priced bag to fill with apples and a “picker pole” to reach high branches, but most trees are grafted to dwarf rootstock. Alexander the Great, who was a wee bit on the short side, is credited with introducing this innovation to Europe from Turkey and Central Asia.

Apples love slopes because water drains well of them. I’ve been planting apple trees on berms in New York City through the Newtown Pippin Restoration and Celebration. Though in Highland, NY, Wilklow Orchards gave me a little hint of what it might be like to visit the ancestral apple forest, which still grows in the lower Tian Shan (“cellestial” or “heavenly”) mountain range of Kazakhstan. At Wilklow Orchards, two apple rich slopes meet in a quiet and clear valley stream.

Running down into the fruitful valley of Wilklow Orchards. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Winesaps and other apple trees hugged the clear valley stream bisecting Wilklow Orchards. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Jonagold, which has deep New York ancestry, and Golden Delicious were hits with the kids. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Even very young trees were in full fruit. (Photo by Erik Baard)

One of the funnier moments in our day was when I deduced the source of the kids’ shared wave of concern that the orchard might be full of snakes. It turns out they associated snakes with fruit trees from the story of the Garden of Eden. Imagine that each of of the hundreds of fruit trees before them might be home to its own snake and you’ll understand the dark anxiety that manifested itself on a bright day. A few minutes of explanation and the kids were raring to get back to apple picking!  🙂

Fresh from the tree! Hour Children kids learned about real food and ecology. (Photo by Erik Baard)

The start of a balanced diet. (Photo by Erik Baard)

The kids made a pact to bring snacks and apples for others in their families and at Hour Children to share, and to each contribute an apple for making apple sauce. Their yield was a bit dented, however, when they met some very friendly, curious and hungry goats! If goats are anything like sheep, however, at least the kids will be fondly remembered.

Some apples never made it past the goats. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Next the kids burned off some apple energy by romping in the activity greenhouse, which features carnival “bounce rooms” and in the hay jump. The hay jump’s surrounded by pumpkins, inspiring a yearning to see pumpkin patches! The farm’s hay ride furthered their explorations.

The hay jump! A frame, a mattress and hay = FUN. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Hay ride to the pumpkin patch! (Photo by Erik Baard)


Autumnal beauty: a pumpkin patch snug in the Catskill Mountains. (Photo by Erik Baard)

I’m grateful to the Green Heart NY program of I LOVE NEW YORK , the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York Apple Association for such a doubly special day — I got to share wonderful places with kids who need these experiences  while promoting local farms to boot.

There's so much more to see in the Catskills, but there's a good chance you'll wear your kid out. 🙂 (Photo by Erik Baard)

BEACH PLUM WEEK!

30 Sep

Beach Plum gelato at Manducatis Rustica

Beach plum salad at Communitea. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Beach plum smoothie at Communitea. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Beach plum gelato! Beach plum smoothies and baked goods! Beach plum jam on toast! Beach plum sauces on entrees! Maybe a little Merlot with beach plum notes? There are many ways to enjoy this native New York fruit and to savor a fresh memory of summer!

Beach plums growing at Briermere Farms. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Beach Plum Week is arriving in Long Island City to benefit the Hour Children Food Pantry! From October 1 through October 9, LIC’s select restaurants will be serving beach plum foods and beverages with proceeds helping to feed 919 local households. That’s 658 children and 1374 adults, 462 of whom are seniors. Food pantries throughout NYC are painfully in the recession’s vise: budgets are slashed while the need rises.

To keep up with offers, please visit the Beach Plum Week website.

Three restaurants pioneering Beach Plum Week are Sage General Store, Communitea and Manducatis Rustica.

Long Island City faces the United Nations from across the East River. Getting to its Vernon Boulevard restaurant row and charming Court Square district couldn’t be easier — just a stop or two on the 7 or E trains. Views across the water are amazing and you’ll discover a vibrant cultural scene.

Even if you can’t make it to one of NYC’s most exciting rising neighborhoods, you can still support this great cause. Just make a check, money order or credit card donation to the Hour Children food pantry’s account with Food Bank for NYC:

Food Bank for New York City
Memo: Account Number 81171 (Hour Children).
Food Bank for NYC address:
39 Broadway, 10th floor

New York, NY 10006

After you feast, the learning begins. EscapeMaker, a fantastic regional getaway agency, donated $500 through the Greenest New Yorker program of I LOVE NY for public school students with the Greenhouse Project to germinate beach plum seeds. Those seeds come from fruits picked by Hour Children kids at Briermere Farms and served at restaurants. For more about that harvest outing, visit this earlier post.

The Greenhouse Project at PS 333, the Manhattan School for Children.

Those seedlings will be donated to schools and community gardens throughout NYC.  John Prunier of Petsky Prunier personally donated $300 to purchase buckets more fruit, to keep participating restaurants stocked. Amy Hermann drove a car made available for free by Zipcar to pick up the fruit.

How many chances does one get to support food security, native plantings, local agriculture and have a blast with fine dining in an artistic neighborhood all at once? Please be part of this great event!

Many thanks to all!

The Little Plum of the Big Apple State

7 Sep

Beach plums growing at Briermere Farm. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Visit the East End of Long Island now and into autumn for a lingering taste of summer! Though the past few days have been rather dismal downstate, the beaches of Long Island have more to offer after Labor Day than you might think. 

Right about now, farmers are harvesting tartly sweet beach plums to render into batches of jams, jellies and sauces and to bake into treats. Go enjoy them and you’ll be helping to carry a splendid natural and culinary heritage forward.

I’m thrilled that as I LOVE NEW YORK’s 2011 “Greenest New Yorker” I might become one of the purplest too. My $500 award from Escapemaker.com will be directed to the Greenhouse Project to grow beach plum seedlings that can be donated to schools, community gardens and other public spaces. This new effort parallels my championing of the Newtown Pippin apple.

Beach plums are indigenous to the east coast of North America. They play an important role in stabilizing dunes and feeding wildlife. Explorers Giovanni da  Verrazzano and Henry Hudson wrote of the beach plums lining what’s now known as New York Harbor. It’s hard to miss these bushes, which are resplendent in white blossoms in late May and thick with green leaves and cherry-sized fruits in late August.

Wild beach plum blossoms. (Photo courtesy of Cornell University)

Today in New York State you’ll find wild beach plums on Long Island, Fishers Island and Shelter Island.  Habitat restorations surrounding Jamaica Bay incorporate beach plums and several New York City waterfront parks feature small plantings. I first learned of beach plums from David Lutz of Friends of Gateway, a volunteer group that grows beach plums and other native plants. They do well at the New York State Tree Nursery in Saratoga Springs, which lies between the territories of beach plums and another of New York State’s edible wild fruits, the Great Lakes sandcherry.

Briermere Farms owner Clark McComb teaches Hour Children visitors Beach Plums 101. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Cornell University researchers helped spark a beach plum revival by helping farmers to master new growing techniques and markets. I recently brought a group of 20 kids from Hour Children to visit Briermere Farms, a 300-acre rolling expanse of orchards and cropland in Riverhead, NY. Owner Clark McComb introduced the kids to beach plums and to healthy treats like peach slushies made from fruits he grew himself. Landscape designer Gil Lopez, who greatly helped with our trip, was inspired to include beach plums in his palate for sustainable gardens.

Children in the beach plum orchard of Briermere Farms. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Two of Hour Children's happy harvesters. (Photo by Erik Baard)

To see a full gallery of our trip, click here.

Pits made from fruit we picked will be germinated by the Greenhouse Project. In addition to the expertise Cornell University and Friends of Gateway offer, staff at the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center have always been very helpful to my green efforts.

Stay tuned for more info about an upcoming Beach Plum Week in Long Island City.  It is in the works for September, with local restaurants selling gelato, smoothies, tarts, martinis and other delectables. Proceeds will benefit the Hour Children food pantry.

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