I had an incredible time visiting my family this summer in Ohio. Among those fond memories was a visit to Holmes County, home to one of the largest populations of Amish in the world.
Although I had never really visited the heart of Amish Country, I feel as though I’ve known the culture, craftsmanship and food all my life.
As a young girl, I plopped into the backseat of my parents’ silver Oldsmobile and looked forward to strolling around the local Saturday flea market with them. They appreciated every bit of what the Amish vendors brought of their baked goods: homemade apple turnovers, zucchini breads, oatmeal cookies, kettle corn, and more. To this day, whenever I go home for a visit, mom always has something ‘Amish’ for us to take back.
This trip was somewhat different: I was taking mom and her friend and neighbor on an unforgettable outing- a day full of finding local, seasonal and naturally organic produce while at the same time experiencing the lives of an interesting and rich culture within the culture of Ohio. We were going into their world- and a different, peaceful world it was.
About two hours from Cleveland from flat urban roads to hilly, bucolic small town America, the drive itself was my favorite part. You just know you’re in Amish country when you see overalls hanging in the sun to dry and freshly-painted wooden signs advertising handmade wooden furniture for sale.
Upon arrival we immediately began looking for places to shop. The Amish are known for their sturdy handmade baskets, simple quilts and fantastic woodwork. They’re also known for their jams, jellies, pies, cookies and pickling every garden vegetable available in the region. Needless to say, the Amish grocery store was one of our first stops. I think we were there for well over an hour…
For lunch, we ate at the beautiful Chalet in the Valley restaurant, a Swiss owned and run family gathering place that actually was made to feel as though one really is in the small European nation. We were, after all, up in the hills.
At the Chalet, we ate some of the best home-cooked restaurant food anyone could ask for. Great Lakes Walleye (fish), home cooked potato hash browns and silky dumplings alongside fresh summer greens were on my plate. The owner, an elderly Swiss woman with a heavy accent, came to our table to talk to us about our food and our experience. With no room for dessert, we sang our praises and thanked her for even asking.
Right outside the restaurant, we noticed a young girl selling baskets and an elderly man selling just a couple bottles of honey. I headed first for the baskets to talk to the young girl who told me her entire family has been making and selling baskets for generations. Amazing.
Baskets Among the Family Buggy
On to buy some honey…
I wanted to assume the honey was local, but just to be sure I had the facts, I asked anyway. Much to my dismay, the farmer told us with sad eyes that the honey this year came from Michigan because all of the bees in the area had died this year. “What? Not all?” I asked. “Yes, it’s true. Something’s going on with them and we don’t quite know what it is.”
It seemed rather poetic that a huge thunderstorm rolled in during those very moments. Dark skies overhead decided our day in Amish Country would be coming to a close. One last stop for fresh produce and we would zip right past all those buggies to get home, back to our country, which seemed now like a world away…
For more information:
5060 Ohio 557
Millersburg, OH 44654-9483
Walnut Creek Cheese and Amish Grocer- check out their website for free recipes
2641 SR 39
Walnut Creek, OH 44687
Toll Free: 877.852.2888
5562 N. Market St.
Berlin, OH 44610