Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Farm & Whole Foods Outing

Stan McKenzie and his Satsuma Mandarin Orange Trees

Updated and revised December 2020

In October 2013 some friends and I went on a Fall Farm & Healthy Whole Foods Outing. It was a partially cloudy South Carolina Fall day, but that didn't deter us, even when the drizzle became just enough to be annoying. After all, we were on a mission to scope out a local Citrus Farm & Nursery, a fairly new lunch spot sourcing from local farms, and a wonderful small whole-foods market. Oh yes, it was a great day!

The day started out with about a one hour drive to our first destination:  McKenzie Farms & Nursery!  What a great place!  WOW doesn't even begin to describe our adventure there. 

We were met by owner, Stan McKenzie, who had a wealth of knowledge to share with us. First stop, his largest in-ground citrus grove, home to his 135 Satsuma Mandarin Oranges. Following the traditions of the first settlers in the New World, McKenzie Farms harvests citrus dating back to the 1500's! Now how cool is that?  And remember, he's doing this in South Carolina, not Florida!

The trees were loaded with ripening fruit, some of it dragging on the ground. 

The next thing we knew, we were walking through the grove, listening to Stan explain the growth of the trees, the pruning of them yearly to prevent them from becoming too large (makes the picking of the fruit easier), his treatment of the plants when the weather gets below freezing, (he uses irrigation hoses, attached to fine misters that spray out water to gently cover the trees in a layer of ice, keeping them warmer than the surrounding colder air), how he takes a graft from the trees to start another tree and more. 

Following him around from one area to another, we tasted a Dragon Lime, a Persimmon (a first for me) and an Asian Pear.

Even though the Dragon Lime has a definite "bite" to it, the taste was amazing.  In fact, one of our group commented later, "I can just taste that in some Corona."  Now that was funny.           

The citrus fruit ripens in October and November, although this year Stan said with the strange summer we had in South Carolina (a LOT of RAIN), the citrus trees bloomed almost a month later than normal. That apparently didn't stop them from ripening on time, as many of the fruits we saw were either fully ripe, or ripening quickly, making them ready to pick soon. McKenzie Farms & Nursery also has Guavas, Figs, Pomegranates, other fruiting and flowering plants PLUS a wide selection of both winter and summer vegetables! Update: extreme cold weather the first week of January 2018 severely damaged the Satsuma Mandarin Orange grove. Two years later it is slowly rebounding, and of course, all kinds of other plants and produce continue to be available, including citrus.

What a GREAT place!  I'm sure we could have spent hours there, but we still had places to go and people to see, so we headed to the car and continued on our adventure! 

Next stop, the Clay Pot Coffee Shop!  Absolutely, hands down, one of the best lunches I've had in a long time.  The restaurant is full of an eclectic assortment of tables and chairs, al fresco dining outside, and a smattering of local art pieces inside to include the handmade pottery of owner, Peggy Brown. 

You go up to the counter to place your order, then choose your table and await your meal, where the staff provides table 
service. The glasses are small mason jars, which were a fun touch. Only one lunch meal per day is prepared, so today's menu was a Clay Pot signature soup, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder, paired with a BLT made with heritage bacon, local tomatoes, artisan lettuce served on a pita accompanied by healthy chips and grapes. At only $8 it was a steal of a deal and so delicious. My friends even ordered dessert, and one was this amazing Fresh Apple Cake with Rum Sauce and fresh Whipped Cream ... AH MAZ ING is all I can say.  Moist, yummy, melt in your mouth deliciousness. Don't you want a bite?

The Clay Pot strives to source from local farms as much as possible, which is something we all appreciate, being huge supporters of local farms and markets ourselves.  Peggy said "our mission is to serve local and organic products whenever possible and promote fair trade choices."
After our lunch, Peggy graciously gave us a tour of her restaurant, which led to a private conference room area, her personal art studio where she makes her pottery, and an outdoor courtyard area, where the community comes together for story swapping, a community drum beat, and local, live entertainment on an outdoor stage. There's even a wonderful, ginormous outdoor fireplace, to keep everyone warm on cozy on cooler fall and winter nights.

What an awesome, cozy, home town feel kind of restaurant, very welcoming and inviting.  The Clay Pot Coffee Shop is a definite "I will go again" kind of place. Update: unfortunately, the Clay Pot closed permanently in 2017

So now, all stuffed from our great lunch, we were off again to our next, and final stop of the day, SC Real Foods!

Real, wholesome food, just for you and me where we were met by owner, Valerie Criswell, who proceeded to give us a complete tour. 

Now this is "real food" at its best!  In-house no white flour bakery, whole organic grains, complimentary cracking or grinding into grits and flour, local non-homogenized raw and low-temp pasteurized milk, grass-fed beef, butter and cheese, local free-range eggs, heritage breed chicken and pork, organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables, organic nuts, seeds and beans, organic coconut oil, organic sweeteners, food storage supplies, grain mills and bulk foods, classes and support, and gluten-free products.  

After our tour, we shopped and shopped some more, loading up on butter, milk, pure tomato powder, Tattler canning lids (you can reuse over and over again), grains, gluten and a ton of other stuff. Darn good thing someone thought to bring a cooler with us (thank you Liz)!

All in all, it was a wonderful day! We learned so much about citrus trees, and what's required to have them survive in our climate, we enjoyed a fabulous lunch and "shopped till we dropped" at SC Real Foods.

Update: SC Real Foods expanded and relocated to 1225 Celebration Blvd in Florence SC and expanded their offerings to include ready to go wholesome and homemade prepared foods made from scratch with real ingredients, The Peck Away Cafe (online ordering available), a Smoothie Bar and so much more! 

We're already planning our next farm adventure for sometime after the first of the year.  It's sure to be another amazing outing, full of discovery in our own backyard!

Until next time ...


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