Visiting a farm and buying your food where it is grown is always a fun and eye-opening experience. While the peak vegetable harvest time may be winding down, fall is still arguably one of the best times to visit a farm. Why? Pumpkin patches and apple picking, along with hay rides, petting zoos, mazes, fresh-pressed cider, local honey, and bakery treats.
Eastern Iowa has many options for those who want to get their pumpkins right out of the field and their apples straight from the tree. And there’s plenty you can do with your fall bounty when you get home. For example, you can make your own pumpkin puree or try the Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins below, or see these recipes for pumpkin pie and apple pies, homemade applesauce, and more.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree (recipe follows)
½ cup oil or melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2⁄3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a muffin pan. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together and set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, eggs, oil or butter, and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients and the chocolate chips to the dry ingredients, and stir until just mixed.
Scoop the muffin batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
How to Make Pumpkin Puree
Nothing compares to the taste and texture of homemade pumpkin puree; canned pumpkin is barely in the same universe. Once you’ve seen how easy making your own is, you will never use canned pumpkin again! For every pound of pumpkin, you can expect to get about 1 cup puree.
For the best results, use the smaller variety of pumpkin that’s grown for eating and save the larger ones to make jack-o-lanterns. Avoid pumpkins with dry or moldy stems. If your puree is lumpy, put it through a large mesh strainer.
Freeze the puree in small batches and use in pies, muffins, breads, soups, sauces, and more.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
We recommend starting with 1 to 4 pie pumpkins. Cut the tops off of your pumpkins and slice them in half vertically.
Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and stringy pulp away from the flesh, then cut each half into thirds. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes until tender.
Remove from the oven, scrape the pumpkin from the skin, and puree it in a food processor until smooth (process in batches if you have a lot of pumpkins). If your puree is lumpy, put it through a large mesh strainer.
Use the pumpkin right away or freeze it in one- or two-cup portions.
Eastern Iowa U-Pick Pumpkin and Apple Farm
Many of these farms follow organic practices even though they have not gone through the expensive certification process. Ask to be sure. Call ahead or visit the farms’ websites for updated hours, directions, or information on upcoming events.
• Leslie’s Little Bit of Heaven
531 W. Cedar St., Birmingham
(319) 498-4479, by appointment
Apples, pears, Asian pears, kiwis, pecans, and English walnuts.
• Harvestville Farm
1977 Hwy. 2, Donnellson
harvestvillefarm.com or on Facebook
9 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday through Saturday
11 a.m.–7 p.m. Sundays
U-pick pumpkin patch, 10-acre corn maze, horse-drawn wagon rides, bonfires, and more.
• Rolling Prairie Acres
708 E. Ringgold St., Sigourney
• Appleberry Orchard
2469 Hwy. 2, Donnellson
Monday-Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Pumpkins, u-pick apples, local honey, pre-picked apples, play area and petting farm, wagon rides, sorghum maze, and bakery.
• Barnyard Blooms Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch
337 Cemetery Ln., Grandview
Tractor-pulled hay rides, farm animals, and campfires. The seven-acre corn maze opens in early September. The pumpkin patch opens September 27.
• Sass Family Farm
3060 160th St., Riverside
11 a.m.–7 p.m. daily
Pumpkin patch, straw maze, haunted house appropriate for younger kids, petting zoo, tractor-pulled hay rides, and more. Fall Festival on October 12.
• The Orchards on Sand Road
5888 Sand Rd., Iowa City
8 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
U-pick or pre-picked pesticide-free apples. Multiple varieties.
• Wilson’s Orchard
2924 Orchard Ln. NE, Iowa City
10 a.m.–7 p.m. every day
U-pick apples and pumpkins, honey from hives on the farm, fresh cider, bakery, and tractor rides. Events most weekends.