This is the second Christmas I will be spending in Australia now, last year being the first (in quite some time) and I’m loving it. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been spending my Christmas’ in an Asian country (mostly Shanghai) where Christmas is not a holiday and really isn’t all that festive either, not to mention it’s always winter there! So basically I’ve been deprived since I was a child of nearly all my summers along with all the fun things you can do during the warmer months here.
Hot weather has always been my kind of thing as there are just so many things to do and good food to enjoy. Outdoor activities and BBQs are the norm and I can actually wear my summer dresses! One activity that I never had the chance to enjoy until recently was strawberry picking. The most famous and popular place for that in Victoria is probably Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm in Mornington. I had been to Sunny Ridge a few years ago but it was during May which was not strawberry season and the only thing we did was buy strawberry liquor from their souvenir shop. This year, I had my first taste of handpicked, deliciously sweet strawberries.
We went as a group of 6 people on a Sunday. As we had all slept in a bit, by the time we got there it was already almost lunch time. The place was packed with people old and young and I could feel the excitement in the air. At the entrance were 2 alpacas. Both of which were quite skinny but like always, looked as if they were smiling at me. The cutest animals ever.
We also passed a stand that sold Sunny Ridge fruit beers and ciders. One of them was the raspberry and apple cider that Yuye ordered at the Belgium Beer Cafe I posted about earlier. I was tempted to buy a slab but Yuye stopped me, saying that there’s a lot of beer left at home. 🙁 I would have loved some, especially when it’s so hot at the moment!
|Cheeky Rascal Raspberry & Apple Cider|
There was even a handmade pottery market by the entrance to the farm, put together by some of the local pottery artists. The pieces were cheap and beautiful, although I didn’t find any that really justified adding to my already overflowing kitchenware collection.
There were not only strawberries but also raspberries, although I don’t think you can pick those.
|Raspberries – not for picking|
Before we reached the strawberry picking area, we came across the cutest little ponies on the other side of the fence. The brown one wasn’t scared of people at all and let us pat its nose.
It was desperately trying to reach the grass on our side of the fence by sticking his head in between the barbed wire while having his eyes closed in case the wire pricked his eyes. What a smart thing! Just wasn’t sure why he wasn’t eat the grass on his side, maybe our side tasted like strawberries? 😀
There were aisle after aisle of strawberry plants but most of them were occupied already. The group of us went all the way to the end and each took one aisle.
The cost of entry was $8 per person and each person received an empty box that carried roughly 500g of strawberries. A ‘Paid’ sticker on the lid showed that we’d already paid for entry and we were free to walk out when we were done with picking. In effect, it was $16 per kilo which was quite expensive, but of course, it was the fun of picking our own very fresh strawberries that incurred that extra cost.
The competition was on to see who could pick the nicest strawberries and who could pick the heaviest (we took home the boxes and weighed them all). The fun of it was picking the ripest and largest and then finding tiny ones to fit into the gaps just like tetris.
|Handpicked strawberries – mine and Yuye’s, see how packed they are? We did good. 😀|
I was starving by the time we finished picking. We were all allured by the juicy smell of sausages just at the entrance of the souvenir shop and lo and behold, it was a Sunday sausage sizzle! Just in time for my grumbling stomach as well. I think it may have been a fundraiser event but wasn’t sure.
The two sausages that my friend Elise got were very funny, can you spot the difference? The piece of bread on the right was twice the size of the one on the left (in thickness) which I think may have been a manufacturing defect. The bread cutting machine must have failed to cut it in half. 😀
|Huge bread slice on the right|
Yuye and I got a sausage each topped with onions and tomato sauce with white bread. I really liked the white bread, it was long and fit the long sausage just right.
But just a sausage wasn’t going to satisfy me. I needed something sweet, something strawberry. We sat at the cafe inside the souvenir shop which was packed with people and we had to almost fight for table space. The shop actually sold a lot of desserts such as ice creams, parfaits and scones.
After careful consideration, I chose the Devonshire Tea set for $10 which came with “2 freshly made scones served with the famous strawberry jam and a helping of double thick cream” and of course our choice of tea or coffee. The tea that Yuye chose was called Red Fancy Fruit (from T2Tea). The description was “fermented rooibos blended with pretty sunflower, rose and cornflower blossoms creates a fabulously fruity brew with delightful berry and lemon flavours…’. I’m not sure if what I tasted what that extravagant but I agree it was quite fruity and even herby with a slight tang.
|Red Fancy Fruit tea, part of Devonshire Tea set – $10 for the set|
The scones were HUGE! Each one was about the same size as my fist. They were soft and fluffy inside and went beautifully with the jam and cream.
|Scones and farm-made strawberry jam and cream with Devonshire Tea Set|
The jam was fantastic. Yuye and I both liked it more than the raspberry jam at Pie in the Sky and that was already very nice. We even got two perfect small strawberries with the set and I thought to myself, that’s why I couldn’t find the small ones to fit the gaps in the box! They were all picked already for these devonshire tea sets.
Y and Geoff ordered a Strawberry Knickerbocker for $10. I loved the sound of that name! A knickerbocker refers to a British dessert known as ‘knickerbocker glory’ which is a sundae served in a tall glass containing ice cream, cream, various syrups, fruits and nuts. That name also refers to early settlers from Holland to New York and a type of long trousers worn by children. Go figure.
I didn’t taste the sundae but we could probably all guess what it tasted like – strawberries and utter deliciousness.
|Strawberry knickerbocker – $10|
Racheese got a Sunny Ridge Strawberry Temptation for $12.50. It included ‘a parfait glass spilling with strawberries and Sunny Ridge farm-made strawberry ice cream and sorbet topped with lashings of whipped cream and strawberry syrup’. Just typing that sentence made me salivate! I tried a bit of each ice cream and they were fantastic. The sorbet was refreshing, sweet and distinctly strawberry whereas the ice cream was creamy and smooth. They contrasted each other and complimented each other very well. These desserts are making me feel like I made the wrong choice, even though I liked my scones too! Dilemmas of being a glutton. 🙁
|Sunny Ridge Strawberry Temptation – $12.50|
I opened up Yuye’s box when I got home and realised that he had picked the strangest and largest looking one of them all. It was a conjoined twin and boy was it sweet.
|Weird strawberry that Yuye picked|
After the strawberry farm, we also went trout fishing at a cherry farm. I’ll leave this story till next time or else this post will turn into another never-ending post again.
I feel like I have found a new favourite fruit after taking my very own handpicked ones. They are wonderful in this season even though weather hasn’t been too kind on fruit farms this year. The weather’s getting warmer and holidays are coming up so it’s a great time to visit Sunny Ridge!
Here’s also an interesting article I got from their site about the success and stories of farm cafes.
Question time: What’s your favourite fruit? Do you think handpicked fruits are better than store bought ones?
Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm
Phone: (03)5989 4500
244 Shands Road, Main Ridge Victoria 3928
Opening hours: November to April (strawberry season) daily 9am- 5pm, May to October Saturday/Sunday 11am-4pm (these times refer to the main shop)
Opening hours for strawberry picking: 9am-4:30pm during strawberry season