Sunday was the perfect day for harvesting vegetables, and we couldn’t have asked for more when given the opportunity to eat any and all “defective” tomatoes. Any split tomatoes were ours for the tasting and we were grateful for the chance to enjoy them under the sunny, Minnesota sky.While organizing our Sunday volunteer time & farm tour, one in the Luci crew stated, “I can’t be blamed for the ones (tomatoes) that end up in my belly.” Luckily for him, there were plenty to go around.
August 5th marked our second visit of the year to Sandra Jean’s Farm & the Breezy Hill Orchards just outside of Maple Lake, MN. Departing at 9:30am, we arrived ready to spend some time helping out Sandra with harvest. Her one woman operation keeps the Luci kitchen full of local, organic produce in the summer and fall months. With the Smith Family & Luci Staff ever anticipating her twice a week deliveries that begin in late spring, summer is a special time of year at the Luci Corner. From organic eggs and herbs to vegetables and fresh cut flowers, the Luci Restaurants take inspiration from the variety and quality of products raised by Sandra Jean. Her immense labor of love can be seen, tasted, and admired in the dishes that are served at Luci Ancora & Ristorante Luci.
While our team picked heirloom tomatoes, pickling & slicing cucumbers, and a few green beans, we learned that Sandra’s operation can be demanding and requires a certain blend of determination, dedication, and patience to make everything work. We have come to know and respect her hard work in a new light as we plucked each tender heirloom cherry tomato one by one into our bins, savoring every split tomato we could find.
While preparing to leave Breezy Hill’s fields, we were granted an added surprise with the offer to enjoy the first apples of the season grown by Patrick Lynch and Wendy Johnson of Breezy Hill Orchards. Since taking over the family farm in 1993, Patrick Lynch has continued his parents’ passion for a healthy environment and pesticide-free farming by becoming a certified organic orchard in 2002. His dedication shows in the quality of the fruit raised. Their first apple variety of the year, “State Fair”, was refreshing with a sweet, juicy flavor that inspired us to buy over 40 pounds of the beautiful fruits for the Luci kitchens and our home pantries. Homemade applesauce anyone?
Our day ended with a tour through the vegetable & flower gardens at Sandra Jean’s Farm where we took a few more photos, relaxed a bit, and enjoyed a beautiful lunch prepared by Sandra – complete with heirloom tomatoes freshly picked from the fields. We’re looking forward to a fall visit to Maple Lake filled with more apples, pumpkins, and fall vegetables.
Follow the chicken below for more photos from our visit and learn a bit more about Breezy Hill Organic Orchards, one of the few organic apple growers in Minnesota.
Remember the chicks that hatched and followed mother hen home a couple months ago???
They’re all grown up now and can be seen roaming about on Sandra Jean’s Farm.
The Luci kitchens are filled with fresh basil, greens, summer squash, zuchinni, a colorful collection of heirloom tomatoes, and cucumbers among others. As we enter the high season of the Minnesota harvest over the next few weeks, why not stop by for a simple alternative to traditional Italian fare. You’ll notice the difference in the ingredients, case in point – our Caprese Burrata Salad has never looked better. Buon Appetito !