Is there anything better than a sunny autumn day spent wandering through the Annapolis Valley looking for pumpkins, winter squash, apples and maybe even a freshly baked loaf of bread - immediately drizzled with local honey? Like many Halifax families, we find ourselves drawn each October to the various corn mazes, orchards and farm markets dotted throughout the agricultural centre of our province, and even though we grow the majority of our own vegetables, I still find that our car trunk quickly fills after just a few stops.
This past Sunday was the first weekend of my the annual hiatus from The Weekend Gardener radio program, which has now gone dormant until next April. This break gave us the chance to pile in the car for an autumn adventure and we immediately headed to Wolfville, hoping to also find time to visit Windsor and take in the 14th annual Pumpkin Regatta and watch the brave participants try and paddle their pumpkin boats across Lake Piziquid.
Before we watched the afternoon Regatta however, we decided to take advantage of the many attractions in nearby Wolfville. Our first stop was Kenny’s Farm Market, which has amazing local produce at excellent prices. I quickly filled a big bag with gourds, grabbed two massive Butternut squash for aromatic curried soups and added a handful of spaghetti squash to my shopping basket. We also bought a bushel of Cox Orange Pippen apples and two large pumpkins. I figured we had already smashed our daily budget, but all this wonderful local food - enough for a week of meals - was less than twenty dollars!
Next, we headed to Elderkin’s Farm Market and U-Pick where we soon filled a 20 LB bag with McIntosh apples for autumn crisps and pies. When we went in to pay for our apples, the heady fragrance of just baked sticky buns was too much to resist and we stocked up on the sweet buns as well as still-warm bread and molasses rolls. After a quick stop for honey at Cosman and Whidden we devoured our soft, honey-drizzled rolls and were ready for the corn maze at Noggins Corner Farm. We managed to eat a few ears of their freshly buttered corn on the cob before we headed back on the road and headed to Windsor for the Pumpkin Regatta.
It was our first time attending the popular event and we all had fun watching the tractors move the massive painted and adorned pumpkins to the lake. It was a carnival atmosphere and everyone enjoyed the sight of the paddlers take to their pumpkins. Soon the fifty or so pumpkin boats were heading for the starting line and after a mad paddle across the lake, David Tilley was the winner!
No autumn trip to the Valley would be complete without a visit to The Dill Farm in Windsor and so before we headed home, we stopped in to see what other goodies we could find. I had been hoping to gather a few more gourds for our collection since my speckled swan and caveman’s club gourds failed to produce. Yet, after spending the day traipsing across the valley with no such unique gourds in sight, I had given up. As we stood in the main area of the Dill farm market gaping at the gigantic pumpkins, watermelons (140 LBS!) and dozens of types of squash, I spied a wagon of gourds! Not only did they have my beloved speckled swan and caveman’s club, but they also had apple gourds! Happy day! We filled the tiny bit of space left in our car with a 59 LB watermelon (sweet and delicious), a Cinderella pumpkin, assorted gourds and some more winter squash and headed home. Another satisfying autumn day in the Annapolis Valley. Anyone hungry for curried squash soup?
Niki Jabbour is the author of the award winning book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award) and the host of The Weekend Gardener radio show that airs on News 95.7 FM April through October. For more info, please visit www.nikijabbour.com or follow her on twitter at @NikiJabbour.