Pick Kozlowski Farms for Sonoma County's Picnic Season

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Pick Kozlowski Farms for Sonoma County's Picnic Season

It's as Americana as Norman Rockwell — the image of families gathering for picnics in the spring, soaking up sunshine and delicious food from a basket brimming with wonderful homemade delights.

Yet it's as realistic as ants at the picnic — many families don't have the time to prepare all those glorious eats, particularly the handcrafted jams for the bread, the dressings for the salads, and the pie for dessert.

A great place to start shopping is on Sonoma County Farm Trails, a culinary charm bracelet of some 200 orchards, farms, ranches and vineyards stretching from Santa Rosa to Duncan Mills. The purveyors here offer everything from Araucana chickens to organic zucchini.

But for one-stop convenience, few places can compete with the wonder of Kozlowski Farms in Forestville.

Nestled among the apple orchards sits an old fashioned market stocked to the rafters with handcrafted goodies like jams, preserves and no-sugar-added fruit spreads, fruit butters in harvest flavors like plum and pumpkin, fruit syrups, mango-apricot chutney, and fruit vinegars.

There are pies galore, ranging from finger-licking blackberry, to raspberry peach, to Gravenstein apple. Other Sonoma County-fresh specialties include gourmet mustards, salad dressings, chipotle grilling sauces and even seafood cioppino sauce. If you can't decide, friendly shopkeepers will put together a gift basket or box of favorites for you.

The Kozlowski family has been going strong since they purchased their first apple farm in 1949, then bought the adjacent property that would become Kozlowski Farms in 1951. A brand new production and warehouse building has just been built amid the Russian River Valley gardens, but the charm still maintains its deep roots.

The legendary pecan streusel crumb-top and double-crust pies were born in1952, when matriarch Carmen Kozlowski needed to find a use for an overabundant harvest of berries and apples on the property. The rest, as they say, is delicious history.

Carmen's pies beckon with golden lattice crusts, in seasonal flavors like cherry, raspberry peach, and blueberry apple, and you can get them as pie tarts, too (hint, grab an unbaked pie, take it home and cook it later to fill your home with scent of raspberries, apples, and blackberries).

Next came jams and jellies, which in the 1970s evolved to a no-sugar-added raspberry spread that was such a hit that more flavors soon followed. One taste and it's clear why no sweetener is needed — the all natural apple juice and dried apples from the family's orchard blend beautifully with the berries, for bright, tart, joy-on-the-tongue. Today, the all-natural recipes extend to fruit butters, barbecue and grilling sauces, mustards, vinegars, and chutneys.

When enjoying that picnic, guests can start at the farm, taking in scenic views of the Pinot Noir vineyard and organic apple orchard that still thrives today.

The store is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and one of the favorite choices to build-a-better-picnic is the Bounty of Sonoma County Deluxe Gift Basket with Wine. It's arranged with dozens of glorious treats like five-pepper preserve, chipotle jam, garlic Caesar dressing, and Kozlowski's own Pinot Noir.

Just add some extras like bread, cheese, chicken, and fresh greens, and it's a picture-perfect feast.

Details: Kozlowski Farms, 5566 Hwy. 116, Forestville, 707-887-1587, kozlowskifarms.com.

Tina Luster