Oh July, you snuck by so quickly! The month of July at Erickson Ranch is hot, as is everywhere else in the valley. But despite that heat, there's a lush feel at the ranch. The flowers are in full bloom, the vegetables and fruit are ripening. Trees provide much sought after shade. Under the shed roof where all of the picked fruit and vegetables await, fans blow and the pace is mellow. Ranch dogs wander and lounge in the shadows, still hasty to greet visitors, but not so eager to leave the coolness of the shade. There's still plenty of work and business going on and the ranch feels as though it's in a happy state; greeting visitors, providing food and a comfortable place to hang out and explore on a hot summer day. There's nothing like fresh fruit, that has been basking in a little heat, to quench your thirst. It sounds counter intuitive, but when fruit is at a natural temperature you get it's true flavor and the juiciness can't be beat.
One of the things I love about Erickson Ranch is that it's not just a business but a lifestyle for the owners and their family. It's not always pretty (as Vicky will point out) with the bugs, mud, long days, never ending to-do list and hard work, but it's rewarding. The reward is obvious, and so much more than just the bounty of their land, it's something you immediately sense when talking to Ray or Vicky. It's a lifestyle they so generously share and strive to pass on to their visitors, the community and their friends. A perfect example is their recipe cards they have ready to go home with you and also located on their website, recipes that include fresh ingredients you can get straight from the ranch. Some of the ingredients are available already picked and ready to be bagged, others you pick yourself, fresh from the garden. It's just a wonderful experience all around. It connects you to your food, to a simpler process so easily forgotten with the conviniences we have today.
I enjoy making food that includes the maximum amount of fresh veggies possible and food that celebrates itself. Guacamole for instance, I like mine to mainly taste like avocado, enhanced with a little garlic and salt , perhaps some onion, jalapeño and tomato if I'm feeling adventurous, but I want to celebrate the natural taste of the avocado as much as possible. Can you tell I'm passionate about my avocados ;) Sadly, the last few months with baby I've fallen from my veggie wagon! And have turned to convenient ready made food more often than I'd like... but honestly I miss a good, fresh home cooked meal! But knowing it's there waiting for me to just jump right back in is definitely exciting and I look forward to the time when I am back in my cooking groove. I am also looking forward to sharing the ranch with our little dumpling. From seeing how things grow, to harvesting the ingredients, to cooking; my own personal love of the ranch and the lifestyle aside, it's a great place to take kids and teach them all about food, where it comes from, how to prepare it and to really get them involved in what they eat. And hopefully, in turn, not so scared of veggies!
Make sure to head out to Erickson Ranch next time you need some fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers or just a bit of country in your life.
Hope you're all staying cool as possible in this heat... On to August!