First, 4-year-old Derek Grymko gave the sprig of dill the sniff test.
“Can I bite?” he asked his mom.
Nina Grymko of Wilkes-Barre told him to go for it, and soon her son was chewing another fresh herb in the Fertile Grounds Pick-Your-Own fields in Kingston Township. He liked the dill, and the mint, too.
Every week through the growing season, area residents who have joined the Fertile Grounds CSA, or community-sponsored agriculture farm, can pick up a box filled with organic vegetables at the YMCA in Wilkes-Barre, Jaya Yoga in Clarks Summit, or the Lands at Hillside Farms in Dallas. Those crops are grown at Fertile Grounds 37-acre farm in Noxen.
As a bonus, members are welcome to harvest extra crops on a smaller field at Hillside Farm, where last week tomatoes, tomatillos, zucchini and other varieties of produce were in various stages of ripeness.
“I picked some hot peppers,” Sandy Williams of Plains said on Thursday, adding fresh-picked is “better than anything you can get in a store.”
“I’m heading up there for basil,” Theresa Mislivets of Hanover Township said, pointing up the hill.
“I usually have a big garden at home,” Mislivets said, but because she’s moving this summer, she didn’t plant at home.
“It’s good for me to come here,” she said, adding the peaceful surroundings of tree-covered mountainside, nearby turkeys and a crowing rooster are as much an attraction as the chance to do some harvesting.
While she picked herbs, several children headed for the flowers.
“I can put it in my hair,” Kristin Marx of Dallas said as her daughters, 8-year-old Hailey and 6-year-old Kaitlyn, made their selection from the abundant zinnias.
Several parents who brought young families to the Pick-Your-Own fields said they’re glad the Fertile Grounds crops are introducing their children to all sorts of good-for-you veggies from kale to turnips to bok choy.
“I ate the broccoli,” 8-year-old Lily Grymko said.
Signage at the Pick-Your-Own field offers little lessons in agriculture, such as: “Cover crops build soil fertility and attract beneficial insects.”
And, when you stroll through the field with a gathering bag slung over your arm, it’s easy to learn more about where food comes from.
“Maybe we’ll make some pickles when we get to Nana’s house,” Nina Grymko told her children as she looked over tiny cucumbers.
By this point, her trio of youngsters — Derek, Lily and Brody — had discovered the flowers, several adults were discussing uses for oregano and thyme, and a few newcomers to the field agreed the tomatillos seemed not yet ready to be plucked.
While the zucchini plants seemed to have more buds than actual zucchinis, one woman picked a few anyway.
“I think I’ll stir-fry the blossoms,” she said.
As the Marx family left, Hailey and Kaitlyn said the best part of a visit to the Lands at Hillside Farms is a chance to stop at the dairy store for ice cream.
“Chocolate,” the older girl specified. “Strawberry,” her younger sister said.