Visiting Barthels Fruit Farm – Mequon, WI

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I have epic memories of heading out to various gigantic pumpkin patches throughout the state and loading up whatever rumbling vehicle we happened to be driving at the time with as many pumpkins as we could fit while still allowing room for a parent and 2-3 kids. We paid a gnarled old man in striped overalls, who was usually the only other soul in sight for miles. We resold them at the Saturday market, and used them to deck out the porches for autumn. It was during these yearly jaunts that I learned the all-important piece of advice from my parents: NEVER pick up a pumpkin by the stem! I still cringe to this day when I see people carting their pumpkins around like that…

Anyway, pumpkin picking was so incredibly laid back and non-commercialized when I was growing up that I felt pretty disgusted visiting a few of the so called “Pumpkin Patches” throughout southeastern Wisconsin when I moved down here. I won’t name any…but come on, corn mazes? Riding a wagon to get to the field? Not to mention the ridiculous prices that go along with all of the bells and whistles. No, seriously, I don’t mean to knock off someone’s pumpkin childhood experiences. I was either deprived or spoiled, depending on how you look at it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yesterday, we (along with our friends and their adorable son)ย  tried Barthels Fruit Farm for the first time. It’s located about 15 miles north of Milwaukee, and they have an apple orchard, a greenhouse, and a pumpkin patch. It’s a pretty small, family-owned operation, and I actually really liked it. No $5 ticket charge to ride the hay wagon to the pumpkin field or the apple orchard! Plus, the pick-your-own pumpkin prices were much lower than what I’ve seen pumpkins going for even at the farmers markets.

Jason and I both picked out a larger pumpkin to carve, and I also got two pie pumpkins to use for decoration and eventually for cooking. I’ve never made my own pumpkin puree before, so we’ll see how that goes down. Let’s hope the squirrels stay away!

Unfortunately, because of the really weird hot/cold/hot weather we had all spring, they lost 95% of their apple crop. They didn’t have the pick-your-own apple option, but you could still purchase apples in their small (non-fancy!) barn shop. They had a few cases of small pie pumpkins, gourds, and squash, and a few caramel apples but overall everything was very simple and non commercialized, which made me happy. We got a 1/4 peck of Honeycrisp apples to eat throughout the week. If you’ve never had a truly fresh apple (most of the apples you buy in the store, even organic ones, are at least a year old!) you’re missing out. They have SO much flavor and texture, you’ll never want to buy a bag of Red Delicious from the big box store again.

They had a few of these beauties (not my photo):

I was tempted to get one just to save for the seeds, but they were a little on the pricey end and I figured I would just get a packet of seeds in the spring. They’re called Cinderella Pumpkins, and they’re an heirloom variety. I think they’re gorgeous ๐Ÿ™‚ AND! They make delicious pumpkin puree AND because they’re heirlooms, you can save the seeds. Everybody wins! They are certainly going to be incorporated into my garden next year. I can’t wait!

 

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