Cloud Mountain Farm (6906 Goodwin Rd. near Everson) recently hosted their annual Fall Fruit Festival, and we were among the first to arrive Saturday morning. I’d been looking forward all summer to tasting over 200 varieties of apples and other fruit and vegetables grown by Cheryl and Tom Thornton, the farm owners, and their hard-working staff.
We were dazzled at the entrance by a wagon load of many kinds of squash and pumpkins, most of which were edible. The colors were amazing, and kids were attracted to the display like bears to honey. After checking out the squash we headed straight for the tasting tables.
Who knew that a single fruit–the common apple–could have such an astonishing range of flavors, colors, and textures? There were dozens and dozens of different varieties, and it quickly became obvious it would be impossible to taste them all. I decided to focus on heirloom varieties, and still didn’t exhaust the available possibilities. It made for a fascinating gastromic experience, and made me wish I had more room for growing an orchard at home.
Around the corner from the apples were grape varieties. Cloud Mountain has been experimenting with both wine and table grapes in recent years and has now become a good source of vines for winemakers, both professional and amateur.
Other tasting tables had berries, peppers, pears, jams, unusual fruit species, and too many other fruits and vegetables to list. People serving the samples were all experts, and knowledgeable about every aspect of growing and tending each variety in our local area. It was an education just listening to them answer questions as we moved along the tables.
When I didn’t think I could absorb any more flavors or information, I wandered over to the Mallard Ice Cream stand to reward my hard work (heh heh) by sampling the aronia berry ice cream they had created especially for the event. I first tasted aronia berries fresh off the plant on a tour of Cloud Mountain Farm in mid-summer. Each little berry packed an explosion of sweet, spicy flavor that was quite delightful. I was not disappointed by Mallard’s creativity in working with the flavor in their ice cream.
I browsed the farm stand and bought some apples (of course) as well as some sweet peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables to take home. (See the menu below created with some of their food) There was a bit of a line before the checkout stand, and I enjoyed some conversations with others waiting near me. Everyone was clearly enjoying themselves thoroughly, just as I was, and excited about the food varieties they had chosen.
Finally, I joined my daughter and grandson in front of the musicians. Several different groups performed throughout the weekend. We heard a Celtic/Irish duo called “Giant’s Causeway,” and a country/bluegrass band called “Polecat.” Both brought smiles and tapping toes (if not outright dancing feet) to the audience, especially the young ones.
Free activities for children, contests to guess the weight of huge pumpkins, and a chance to browse the nursery plants were some of the other highlights of the day. If you missed the event, mark your calendar to watch for it this time next year. It’s a real treat! Thanks, Cheryl and Tom!
On the way home I stopped at the Artisan Wine Gallery on Lummi Island to visit owners Pat and Rich, and to finish the day with their weekly wine tasting (every Saturday 2-6pm). I told Pat I was going to make an apple pie, and she described a rustic peach tart she had made recently. I decided to try it with apples. The result tasted as good as it looked–thanks for the idea, Pat!
Cloud Mountain mostly sells their produce at Bellingham Farmers Market. Visit the farm or order online or by mail to purchase nursery plants.
Here’s the menu for the whole meal:
Each of these dishes is fabulous, if I do say so myself! Let me know what you think.