MARIPOSA — This is prime pumpkin time, people! Whether you’re looking for one to carve or to grace your autumn table, you may want to visit Jerseydale Ranch Pumpkin Patch.
We go very year, and every year it gets better. It’s a pretty drive out there, depending on where you live, and not too far from the Triangle Café, which is a good place to stop for a bite to eat either coming or going from the pumpkin patch.
Plenty of free parking and free admission are standard when it comes to this experience, which should first be noted, is not at all limited to pumpkins. Gourds, squash, fruits, grain, flowers, nuts – you name it, and you may be able to find it at Jerseydale.
Owned and operated by partners Bruce Kahl and Brian Finnegan, this is the fifth year Jerseydale Ranch Pumpkin Patch has been up and running.
“It’s a work in progress,” says Bruce, whose family has owned the property since 1919. Set up for display and sale in Mariposa, the pumpkins are actually grown in Plainsburg on the family farm.
“We currently have 42 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds,” continues Bruce, explaining that the family business was originally almonds.
The Jerseydale pumpkin patch started out simply enough, with just acre of pumpkins for the neighbor kids to enjoy. That patch has now expanded to six acres of bounty, including not just pumpkins and the rest, but a picnic area, pond, baby goats, straw bale maze, games for kids and a whole lot more.
Lest anyone think this lush set up – something Martha Stewart would aspire to on her best day – belongs to Halloween-ers alone, do remember that with 42 different varieties to choose from, the right cooking squash or pumpkin is out there waiting to be plucked from a rough-hewn shelf.
This, too, is the season of roasted pumpkin soup, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin cheese-cake. While canned pumpkin is a tremendous convenience and one we wouldn’t deny anyone, all of these seasonal delights are best made fresh with actual pumpkin flesh.
With the inviting landscape and nearly endless play area where parents can watch their kids and also take some great photographs, the pumpkin patch is a must-see place for fall. The clock is ticking, as the last day it’s open is October 31.
Bruce says they get thousands of visitors this time of year, between 60-80 every day and more like 200 per day on the weekend. Yet, when we were there, it never seemed crowded. Some have come from as far as San Jose for the full Jerseydale experience. You never know who you’ll run into.
Last week several members of the Western Sierra Artists propped up their easels at the pumpkin patch for Plein Air day, an outdoor paint fest held in a different beautiful location each month. This time, it was Jerseydale Ranch Pumpkin Patch.
Also picking pumpkins were five members of the Conti family: Christine, Frank and their kids Antonio, Kendall and Renzo. Frank is with Cal Fire and recalled that last June he was up on a ridge pushing back against the Carstens fire, which threatened the area and caused evacuations. Fortunately, the folks at the pumpkin patch were spared and this season has turned out to be a good one.
Even though they may get a little “pumpkin-ed out” as the month draws to a close, proud proprietor Bruce says he gets excited again when the seed catalogs come out in January and he can begin to plan for the new year’s crops. He loves the heirloom varieties, as do the many customers. Heirlooms are super-popular, now.
The owners say visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and hang out comfortably while they choose their pumpkins to take home. We set a budget of $20 and got out at just a little over that, with a beautiful display of fall’s finest that will take us through Halloween, into Thanksgiving and all those delicious pumpkin and squash recipes we have stashed away.
Now, where did that allspice go?