We had a great time driving to Lanesboro and Decorah a few weekends ago. After a fantastic meal at the Old Village Hall restaurant in Lanesboro, we spent the night at a favorite B&B which is not too gaudy or girly, and serves simple, tasty breakfasts. On Saturday morning we walked up to the Lanesboro farmers' market and bought armloads of produce, breads and other goodies from Amish families. Our next destination was Decorah, just a short drive south of Lanesboro.
Just outside Decorah, the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm is situated on 890 acres surrounded by limestone bluffs and pine forest. We were there for their annual Harvest Festival and had a great time touring the farm and visiting with heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese.
After chatting with the poultry, we hopped on a hay wagon and ventured out to see the herds of Ancient White Park Cattle which make their home on the farm. These cattle roamed the British Isles before the time of Christ. During WWI, British royalty feared that the cattle population would be destroyed so they sent some to the U.S. for safe keeping. Today these beautiful cattle are extremely rare. There are only 200 in the U.S. (80 at the Heritage Farm) and a total of 800 worldwide.
The festival featured several food events including a heritage bean tasting. We tried about a dozen dried beans which had been cooked for sampling. They were all so different looking and tasting!! Christmas lima beans are swirled with burgundy and white, and Calypso beans sport gorgeous black and white yin/yang patterns.
We also enjoyed sampling 4 types of roasted garlic and lots of apples. The farm has a fantastic orchard with about 700 different varieties of apples - a small fraction of the 8000+ varieties that once existed. We got to taste nearly 30 of them and we were astounded by the range of flavors, textures and appearance. Some of them look more like potatoes than apples! We chuckled at the varieties with unusual names such as Red - Seek No Further, Ye Olde Peasgood, Black Gilliflower, and Wayne.
In the orchard, there are several heritage pigs which dine almost exclusively on fallen apples. Known as "orchard pigs" these comical floppy eared Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs were fun to watch as they crunched away on apples and squash. They help control pests by ridding the ground of decaying fruit and leave behind natural fertilizer. According to British folklore, their large dark spots were actually bruises caused by falling apples.
While listening to a presentation on making hard cider, we tasted 4 different soups. Local chefs were asked to create soup using this year's special ingredient - roasted garlic! We were in garlic heaven!! Our favorite version was made with a pound of roasted garlic for every gallon of soup. mmmm!
We ended our day with a stop at a taproom and a delicious dinner in Decorah. It was the perfect ending to a memorable day!!