/ The Atlanta Traveler
Atlanta — By Linda Erbele on March 29, 2010 at 10:00 pm
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Hillside Orchard Farms – off the four-lane goodness

If the fruits and vegetables shipped to your grocer from South America have made you wistful for local produce, make a trip to the North Georgia town of Tiger. Home to Goats on the Roof (see my blog post about it here) and the Tiger Mountain Vineyard, an off-the highway turn will take you to Hillside Orchard Farms, where last summer’s produce was bottled within a week of being in the field.

Inside the farm store are rows and rows of gourmet salsas, special-recipe barbeque sauces, apple butters, marinades, and jellies.

The “Hillside Orchard Farms” label is prominent in the store. But they also have 650 wholesale customers, about 95 percent of whom have specialized labels that Hillside puts on for them. So many of those jams, jellies, salsas and sauces that you see at other Georgia stores with private labels really come from here. The ingredients though, all come from local, small farmers.

There’s a wide selection of juices, many you won’t find at a grocery store — scuppernong and muscadine. Both Southern wild grapes, they have very bitter skins but tasty pulp (most natives chew them and spit out the skins.) There’s no hint of bitterness in this juice. Scuppernong is the lighter grape — its juice is sweeter than muscadine. Neither juice is as strong as the store-bought grape juice you may be used to.

Hillside Orchard Farms makes bread on site too — peach, apple, cinnamon-pecan. The apple fritters are made with bread-dough and large enough to share.

The store offers a variety of gourmet gift baskets — you can order on-line or pick up your choices at the store.

They also have a corn maze, a gem mine and a moonshine still, and will open their pick-your-own blackberry patch around the 4th of July. (Stickerless, plump, sweet blackberries, they assured me. I’ll be back.)

And the farm is green — they have a licensed ethanol lab that makes fuel from by-products of the produce. This includes rotten peaches, peelings, anything they can’t use.

From Atlanta on Hwy. 441, turn at the Wiley Connector (near mile-marker five) and follow the sign at the next stop sign seven-tenths of a mile to the farm. (see map.)

Insiders tip: Try the Bean Salsa. I’ve been trying to copy this recipe for years, but mine is never quite as good as theirs.

(Photos: personal.)

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