Taste of the Month: Harvest Time
Autumn is the best time of the year. Football season is in full swing. There’s a crisp nip in the air and the leaves start showing off their brilliant colors — bright reds, oranges, and yellows. It’s also harvest time on farms, and the apples, pumpkins, winter squashes, beets, and other root vegetables are bountiful.
Oktoberfest, fall festivals, and Halloween all occur in the fall, and then there is the unmistakable aroma of cinnamon apple pie and pumpkin bread baking in the oven to remind us that the holidays are just around the corner.
Town&Gown visited three local farms to see what they will have available from this harvest and what fun activities they have planned for families visiting the farms this fall season.
Way Fruit Farm
2355 Halfmoon Valley Road, Port Matilda
Way Fruit Farm’s orchard and farm store has been owned and operated for six generations by the Way family. The land was originally purchased in 1826, and the first fruit trees were planted in 1872 when 1,000 apple trees were given to Robert A. Way and Lucretia Fisher as a wedding gift. Now, there are more than 20,000 fruit trees planted on 200 acres of mountain ground producing apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, apricots, and cherries.
Today, owners Brooks and Sharon Way, along with their daughter Megan and son-in-law Jason Coopey, also grow sweet corn, pumpkins, strawberries, and blueberries. In addition to selling all the fruits and vegetables that they grow, they have partnered with other nearby farmers to offer customers a convenient one-stop shop for local meats, cheeses, milk, canned preserves, and other specialty products.
The farm store also has expanded to include a bakery and café serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some of the café’s most popular lunch items include a Hog’s Galore pulled pork BBQ sandwich; a roasted, shredded beef sandwich; and a cluck and crow (chicken salad) sandwich. The bakery offers freshly baked breads, muffins, cookies, fruit pies, apple dumplings, homemade sticky buns made with real maple syrup, and apple-cider donuts.
“We believe that local produce tastes better and is better for you, so we incorporate what we grow and what we get from our local farm partners into our menu,” explains Coopey. “Our fruits are still our main focus, and we sell based on volume, so by quarter pecks, half pecks, pecks, and half bushels. This works out to be roughly a half to a third of the price at the grocery store.”
During the fall, Way Fruit Farm hosts a number of workshops and festivals starting with the Apple Cider Demonstration Day on October 6 where people can come to the farm and see exactly how cider is made, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There also will be free wagon rides to the pumpkin patch for the kids. This year’s Fall Festival is October 13 and 20. In addition to the wagon rides, there is a craft show, a petting zoo, homemade apple dumplings and soups, and 10 percent of all the earnings on both days will go to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
2191 West Whitehall Road, State College
After graduating with a degree in horticulture from Penn State in 1939, Paul Harner worked on farms in State College until he bought his own on Whitehall Road in 1945. His son Dan ('68) took over the business in the 1970s, and, nowadays, Dan’s son Chris ('94), the third generation of the Harner family, has continued growing apples, peaches, grapes, plums, cantaloupes, watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, different varieties of squashes, and Christmas trees.
“We grow 8 to 10 different varieties of pumpkins, so they vary in size, shape, color, including neons, howden biggie, gladiators, ironsides, and knuckleheads,” says Chris. Prices range from $3.75 for a small pumpkin to $6.75 for a large, and the extra large ones are priced at 40 cents per pound.
October is the perfect time to visit Harner Farms. In addition to all the pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, and fall decorations for sale, the entire farm store is decorated for Halloween with ghostly music and even a haunted corn maze. The corn maze is open every day in October and costs $4.50 for adults and $3.50 for kids. Hayrides also are available, but call ahead to make prearrangements.
Tait Farm Foods
179 Tait Road, Centre Hall
Tait Farm Foods owner Kim Tait calls herself the Stewardess of the Land. “I have been entrusted with a part of this family farm, and with that I feel a sense of responsibility to take care of the place, the people, and the heritage,” she explains.
Penn Staters Marian and Elton Tait purchased the farm in 1950. By the early 1980s, the farm was commercially growing raspberries, asparagus, apples, and Christmas trees, and raising Basset hound dogs. It was known to locals as a place to come for pick-your-own crops, cut-your-own Christmas trees, and to get a puppy. In 1986, a bumper crop of raspberries led the Tait family into producing an old Colonial beverage called Raspberry Shrub. A shrub is made by preserving fresh fruit in vinegar and sweetening it with sugar, and the finished concentrate can be mixed with sparkling water or spirits to make a deliciously sweet, tart beverage that can be enjoyed year-round.
Since then, the food business has continued to grow and develop more products that range from different shrubs and vinaigrettes to chutneys and jams. Today, there are more than 50 specialty-food products that can be purchased at the on-farm Harvest Shop, located seven miles east of State College.
“What we have found over the years is that the best food is often the simplest,” says Kim. “For example, we have a really good blueberry jam, a pure apple butter, and, new this fall, an Apple Chutney, which is a blend of fresh apples, raisins, candied ginger, and just a little spice — fresh fruit, uncomplicated flavors, and seasonally inspired.”
Tait Farm Foods also manages 10 acres of certified organic vegetables, fruits, and greenhouse production that serves a community-supported agriculture program known as Community Harvest.
Fall is the perfect season for hearty greens such as kale, root vegetables, and winter squashes. “When you think of the fall palate, you think of denser fruits and vegetables and more intense flavors, like our Cranberry Chutney or Fig & Honey Conserves,” says Kim. “Both pair great with some cheese on a cracker, or mix the Cranberry Chutney with fresh apples for a delicious Cranberry Apple Relish, and try baking brie in puff pastry with the Fig & Honey for a great appetizer.”
Way Fruit Farm: Sour Cream Apple Pie
1c. (8oz.) Sour Cream
1 c. Sugar
6T. All purpose flour
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
3c. chopped and peeled Apples (Any tart apple will work; we like Fuji or Cortland this time of year.)
1 unbaked Pie shell (*you may substitute a premade, purchased pie crust here)
3 T. melted butter
1/4 c. Brown sugar
Prepare pie crust: With a fork or pastry cutter, mix 1 c. all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/3 c. shortening or lard until small crumbs form. Add 1 T. water at a time until the dough is moist enough to form a ball. Place dough on floured surface and roll into a circle large enough to cover a 9" pie pan. Place crust in pie plate & crimp the edges, discarding excess as needed. Set aside.
Pie filling: In large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Stir in sour cream. Add sugar, 2T. flour, vanilla and salt and mix until well blended. Stir in apples and pour into prepared pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Combine butter, brown sugar and remaining flour; sprinkle on top of pie and bake 20 minutes more. Cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!
Harner Farms: Pumpkin Bread
3 cups floor
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
Stir the top ingredients together.
2 cups pumpkin
4 eggs (beaten)
1 ¼ cups oil
1.2 cup chopped walnuts
Two 4” x 8” loaf pans (slightly greased). Bake 45 minutes or less at 350. Check with toothpick.
Tait Farm Foods: Delicata Squash with Apple Chutney
2 Delicata squash 6- 8” – cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds
4 T butter
6 T Apple Chutney
chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary for garnish
Place squash cut side down in a glass baking dish and fill with ½” of water. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove dish from oven, pour off any remaining water and turn squash cavity side up. Then, put 1T butter (cut into 4 pieces) into each squash half and spread with 1½ T Apple Chutney, top with 1-2 T chopped nuts (if using) and return to oven for another 10 minutes. Garnish each squash half with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Serve immediately.