Listen to Merle on "Real Talk with Jim Lisa"
January 23, 2021
RIGHT OFF THE LAND IN TEXASTraveling to Texas, I experienced two particular “hot spots” of noteworthy; both of which are grown or crafted in Texas. One was Homestead Heritage in Waco and the other, Bell’s Farm to Market in McAllen.
At first Homestead Heritage may appear to be one of those living history museums where the artisans are costumed for the period, only this one is in the present. As I toured the homestead the Gift Barn gave me the full idea of what to expect at the other buildings as all as “one-of-a-kind” handcrafted by those who either lived or worked there.
The barn itself with its well-worn threshing floor has tales of what was there two centuries ago. Continuing from the barn was the Woodworking building that focused much on furniture, although one could learn to create their own violin. Question. If you play them outside are you creating “violins in the streets”? (Say if a few times and you’ll get it). On to the Pottery for vases, bowls, dinnerware and that sort. I was shown how to create a vase and even did so, without hearing the theme song from Ghost. I skipped the Blacksmithing where I would have seen more than creating horseshoes. Rather it would be ornamental wrought-iron tables, beds, chandeliers and fences.
Fiber Crafts is where they card wool, comb cotton or beat flax to use the raw materials for fabrics. Spinning twists the fabrics into threads where the eventual creation of rugs, blankets, decorative tapestries, quilts and clothing are produced.
Onto the Gristmill where they are taking the fresh ground, organically grown grains that include wheat, spelt, oats, and corn to produce a fine flour for baking. Here you can purchase not only the flour but mixes as well. The gristmill is the only internet buying facility. I am presently preparing: Cornbread, Sweet Potato Pancakes, Sweet Potato Muffins, Cranberry Pancakes, 6-grain cereal, Porridge, and Cinnamon Streusel. These are the first pancakes that I have eaten without the use of syrup!
Lastly is their Deli & Bakery where I ordered a hamburger! That’s not my usual item to dine on but let’s consider that the meat comes from the cattle on the land! Couldn’t be fresher than that! Veggies are grown there as well and the bun is made from wheat that is grinded at the gristmill! As for the cheese…you guessed it…a wide variety of artisan cheeses as well. Here is where you can take advantage of buying breads, pastry, cheese products and ice cream. Now, perhaps you may not want to live or work there, but you can learn it all as they have a school where you can take courses in homesteading skills from spinning to beekeeping, furniture making to horse farming, pottery to cheese making.
Each of the buildings sell their handcrafted products although there wasn’t one particular place to purchase the soap and such that I viewed at the Barn. Www.homesteadheritage.com It’s not that a farm stand would be an unusual place in Texas, but what I sampled at Bell’s Farm To Market. The citrus fruits were most unexpected. Somehow I think of Florida and California as the growers of the best. Not, necessarily so. There were two types of red grapefruits and one sweeter than the other. Oranges are seasonal in terms of their ilk. A taste of orange or grapefruit juice is available at the checkout counter and for purchase as well. Lemons. The tartest is what they call a Ponderosa lemon that is the size of a grapefruit with a thick and very wrinkled skin. Great juice to cook with but needs lots of sweetener if you’re making lemonade or sorbet. I was most surprised by the Meyer lemon, which looked like a small oval orange. Owner Bobby Bell told me that some people eat the entire lemon! I cut one open and removed a “segment” as if I were eating a segment of grapefruit. I would describe it as being sweeter and less tart than a segment from a white grapefruit and it didn’t cause me to “pucker”. In fact the taste did not hit me as being a lemon but “something citrus”. I then noticed that there was no pith. That’s the white stuff between the fruit and the peel. I tasted that as well. I could tell that I was eating a lemon but again quite tolerable, so to speak. I cut up slices and soaked them in a sugar syrup. Next time I will dip them in a dark chocolate.
Onions. Big sweet ones that taste like Vidalia but are round vs flat and probably larger. I’m not an onion eater. Slicing it up it occurred to me that my eyes were not tearing. I was sautéing it with peppers. The results were quite sweet in flavor. Raw in a salad seemed fine although I don’t particularly enjoy raw onions. I have yet to sample Bell’s avocados and tomatoes.
You can purchase gift baskets of what is in season although I’m not clear that all of the items can be purchases. Grapefruit, oranges, onions, avocados and tomatoes seem to be what’s available online at www.bellsfarm.com
February 24, 2011 - Queens Times
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