Have you ever driven along a country road and seen a sign for fresh produce? Did you wonder about it? Did you stop and investigate?
I have found myself driving a familiar route, spotting such a sign and ignoring it. Somehow it becomes part of the landscape. I have however over the past few years given in to temptation, stopped to explore and have always been so pleased I did. Treasures await my friends behind those modest, often handwritten signs.
One such discovery was last summer when (for locals) driving on Jay Road north of Boulder I spotted a sign for Hoot ‘n Howl Farm. Seemed like maybe a small garden farm stand in a driveway shaded by soaring Cottonwood trees. It was so much more.
Hoot ‘n Howl’s name comes from having a pair of nesting Great Horned Owls in their beautiful Cottonwood trees annually and the coyotes that can be heard howling at night at the farm.
Hoot n’ Howl farm owned and run by Bob and Janet Poley, is nested behind their spacious home on a most enchanting piece of land. When patrons pull into the driveway of their home they’ll find 3 or 4 ample parking spots across from an impressive farm stand. As of this year they have installed a large floral refrigerator unit allowing chilling of various freshly harvested produce as well as drinks available for purchase. Additional non-refrigerated items line adjoining tables covered with cheery, country-style tablecloths.
Their farm has a CSA program that functions with a slightly different approach than most. They offer a ‘CSA credit’ system providing members may elect their value of monetary contribution ($100 minimum) and then have flexibility to decide how much they want, of what and when. Their description is inventive and worth a read as they explain the motivation behind the concept of a CSA as well.
I loved all these aspects however the real gem for me is they are a You-Pick Raspberry farm. Over the past few years they’ve been adding more canes of raspberries, red and black, and can boast being ‘in the business of raspberry farming’ per Bob. The picking is simple. One reads a quick instruction sheet at the farm stand and enters the friendly-feeling, well marked gate into the home’s sprawling backyard to walk to the north into the farm fields. Pause to take note of four different chicken coops, two moveable a la Joel Salatin so the chickens can make their way around the yard. At the back of the yard is a chain link fence exiting to the picking area. Rows available for picking are clearly marked and rotated daily to allow even growth amongst the bushes.
I personally find berry picking completely meditative. Once into the act it’s very relaxing and certainly rewarding. I have mentioned this before but freshly picked berries do not taste the same as those from the store. The first noticeable difference is the smell. Raspberries in particular are like an intoxicating perfume. My daughter was picking with me and noted the wonderful smell through the plastic bag we were using. It is a heady experience to be in the company of such luscious fruit. The flavor is much more well-rounded, deep and ‘real’ tasting as well. Berries should be picked when they are fully ripe and when they are they roll into your fingers without effort leaving them with a much more soft and gentle texture.
Bob said they are into raspberry season now and expect to have berries through the first frost. I’ve picked there many times in the fall and find the vista of the towering Rocky Mountains in the distance make visiting Hoot ‘n Howl Farm about as perfect a spot as I could imagine.
For location, directions, details and hours click here.
Tips and Etiquette for Raspberry Picking (in general and for Hoot ‘n Howl Farm):
1. (For Hoot ‘n Howl) Bring Containers! The farm leaves out some recycled containers but they often are in limited supply. Save containers from other picking, store bought berries or bring some from home. The berries are very delicate and do best in a hard container. You’ll weigh your berries when you are done and pay by the ounce; you can then return the berries to the containers for storage once home. Because you are picking berries fully ripe, they need to be used promptly as well.
2. Pay first, eat later. Farmers know it’s natural to want to sample the berries but this is how they make their (usually meager) living. If you sample be sure to ‘round up’ on the amount you picked to compensate or better yet wait until you have paid to nibble. Berries are sold by weight making anything consumed money out of the farmer’s pocket.
Cocking your head wondering if I take my own advice? Our berry picking op was wedged between a swim meet and a fast moving torrential storm. I keep a stash of berry boxes at home but in my excitement over the spontaneous outing forgot them.
3. Don’t step over a row of Raspberry bushes. It’s easy to damage younger plants and even if it seems like you could clear them with no problem, most farms ask you to walk around. Hoot ‘n Howl included.
4. Start at the end of a row; look inside and low on the bushes. Most people begin to pick at the first part of a row and only pick what they see or what is easiest for them. From years of picking believe me if you go to the opposite end of a row from where people pick, gently look inside the bush and on the lower branches requiring one to bend over, you’ll find a ton of berries in a small area.
5. Bring a hat, water, sunscreen and insect repellent. You never know what the weather will hold, especially in Colorado. Always best to travel with all the necessities so your picking can go off without a hitch.
If the name of this dessert does not strike your fancy I think you might be fibbing! A Pandowdy is part of the Crisp and Crumble family of desserts offering a type of crust or topping to compliment fruit. In this case I wanted the raspberries to shine and not fight for attention with heavy dough or overpowering ingredients. A pandowdy is almost an upside down pie in concept though with a format similar to a Crumble. It’s very simple; fruit on the bottom, crust on top in a very rustic form. It is not a fussy dessert by any means but rather a flavorful and simple celebration of seasonal fruit. This was my maiden Pandowdy voyage and was a complete hit at my house.
You can use any tried-and-tested pie crust recipe for this and even substitute a store bought crust. I decided to use a recipe for crust of my Great Grandmother’s that was light and offered the kind of coating that worked perfectly for this. The dessert is a ‘relaxed’ format if you will. Would be great with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream too!
· 1 cup of flour (gluten free or regular)
· 1/3 cup unsalted butter (5 1/3 tablespoons)
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 2 ½ tablespoons ice water
· 5 cups raspberries, washed
· ½ cup granulated sugar
· 1 tablespoon lemon juice
· Generous pinch of ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
· 2 tablespoons cornstarch
· Butter to grease the pan
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 ½ by 11 inch baking pan with butter. (Note: in this size dish the dessert is about 1 inch deep. You can make the size of the pan a bit smaller and the dessert will just be deeper. It is a scoopable dessert so altering the pan size will not affect the dessert much).
2. In the bowl of a food processor with the kneading blade (or by hand using a dough/pastry blender) combine the flour, butter (1/3 cup), ¾ teaspoon salt and blend until grainy. Slowly add ice water while blending to allow the dough to make a smoother consistency and form a ball. Do not over blend.
3. Place the dough ball between two pieces of wax paper and roll out to be about 1/8 inch thick. Place in the dough in the wax paper in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to chill. Note: if the dough is too warm/sticky to roll out, you can chill the dough ball 20 minutes and then proceed with rolling out and re-chilling.
4. While the dough chills, in a large bowl combine the raspberries, sugar, lemon juice, and nutmeg and gently fold in to combine. Sprinkle the mixture with the cornstarch and fold in completely. Spoon berry mixture into the prepared baking dish.
5. Remove the crust from the refrigerator. Breaking off pieces of the crust, cover the berry mixture completely. Placing the crust in this way allows for steam to more easily escape as well for the berry juices to seep through to the top over some of the crust.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Remove and allow to cool 20 minutes before serving.