Bored this weekend? Check out a pumpkin patch!

It is going to be surprisingly nice weather in parts of the country this weekend, so why not take advantage of it by heading out into the burbs to visit a pumpkin patch, corn maze or harvest festival?

Many of these events are held at local farms that started by selling pumpkins, and most of them have grown into mini theme parks. Some of the local farms around me have added carnival rides, ghost houses and even a small zoo with tigers and camels!

A handy way to find a local pumpkin event, is on this site where you’ll find all the locations sorted by state. If you are looking for a corn maze, then check out “The Maize” where they cover everything maze related.

One thing I did notice, is that most of these farms are not always cheap; some charge as much as $15 per person to get in, with even more for individual rides. But once you are sitting under the sun with an apple cider doughnut and fresh roasted corn, you’ll quickly forget that. Before heading to a farm, be sure to check their web site for discounts as many of them offer a couple of dollars off the admission if you print a coupon or sign up for their mailing list.

Got a favorite farm or corn maze? Tell everyone about it in the comments!

Where spices come from. A tour of a spice plantation in Goa

If you’re in a region of the world where spices are grown, take in a tour of a spice plantation. On last Tuesday’s episode of Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmern went to a one in Goa.

Here is a video of a tour of a spice plantation in Goa (there are several) that points out the highlights of the various spices and how they are grown. The text captions tell what you’re seeing. Along with the close-up shots, are views of the entire plants. In the mix, there is a demonstration of how to climb a tree, and the food shots will make you hungry.

Here is a link Goa’s spice plantations. Make sure that food is part of the bargain. You are guaranteed shopping time.

Plano, Texas: The most affluent city in the U.S. What’s in it for the traveler?

Over at one of our sister blogs, Wallet Pop, Plano, Texas is being touted the most affluent city in the United States.

That Texas! Texas has two of the cities where people have a fighting chance of making the best living.

Plano may have turned into a suburb of Dallas over the years, but there are distinctive Plano-type things to do, even for folks with a more modest income. The city’s official Web site does give reference to spouses which alludes to trips taken by people who head to Plano for business meetings and bring their spouses in tow.

Here are three places I’d go if ever I was in Plano.

  1. The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary– Technically, this attraction is not in Plano, but in McKinney. It is, however, close enough that I’ll included it, otherwise I would not have ended up with three things. Here is where you can learn about Texas’s natural environment through walking trails and indoor exhibits. One permanent exhibit is on Texas’s venomous snakes. Currently, there is a butterfly exhibit that will run through September.
  2. The Heritage Farmstead Museum – An historic Blackland prairie farm that was turned into a museum to highlight life on the Texas prairie back in 1891.
  3. Interurban Railroad Museum– This restored train station is where you can learn about the history of Plano and about the train that used to go between Dennison and Dallas. It’s free, so, what’s the harm in checking it out?

From the extensive attractions list you can surmise that Plano is close to Ft. Worth and Dallas. If you expand the distance you’re willing to travel, you’ll find loads of things to do. I’d go to the Ft. Worth Stockyards National Historic District.

I checked on the Frito-Lay Web site to see if there is a tasting show room or some such thing since Plano is the company’s home. Nope. Didn’t see one.

For more Plano facts, check out Wallet Pop’s post.

My week as a Turkish farmer

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a farmer? That’s what I set to do last summer, albeit on a different continent and in a country whose language was completely alien to me.

Yep, I chose Turkey. Looking back, it was my perfect introduction to the world of Islam (and agriculture). It’s a pretty safe place, the people are at once cosmopolitan and traditional, and there’s just so much history to see and absorb.

For a week, I lived with an incredibly welcoming Turkish family in the countryside outside Baebeski, a small town a few hours drive from Istanbul. My host mother cooked very delicious meals while my host father handled the chaffeuring (by tractor). Here are pictures from that memorable week.


Giant, Mutant-like Vegetables at Alaska State Fair

State fairs in America are always a fascinating glimpse into a rural part of life that so few of us ever actually see anymore.

Each state fair is unique in its own special way but one that stands out from all the others is the Alaska State Fair and its fantastic giant vegetable contest.

Sure, every state fair has similar contests where local farmers wheel in giant pumpkins and other items they’ve either grown or raised on their land. The difference with Alaska, however, are those very long, extended summer hours when the sun stays out much longer than it does in the lower 49 states. Produce is exposed to the nurturing sunlight exponentially longer and as a result, can grow exponentially larger.

For example, here is a list of state vegetable records set in last year’s Alaska State Fair:

23-foot, 3 1/2-inch corn stalk
4.702-pound parsnip
1,019-pound pumpkin
17.195-pound yellow zucchini
67 1/8-inch long gourd
55.15-pound blue hubbard squash
21.530-pound bushel gourd

In addition, there is a separate category focused entirely on cabbage. Last years winner of the Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off was Brenna Dinkel with her 73.4-pound cabbage (photo above).

So, if big vegetables are your thing, make your way up to Palmer, Alaska August 23 – September 3, 2007 and feast your eyes on the world’s largest vegetables this side of Chernobyl.

(For a list of all FIVE state fairs in Alaska–yes, the state is that big–click here)