More than 20 years ago, Barbara Bradshaw saw a problem on her family farm outside Rusk – and turned it into an opportunity.
Her family’s fruit-growing operation was successful, but at the end of the Texas growing season, the influx of northern-grown blueberries and peaches meant lower prices at market. The family left the last blueberries and peaches of the season in the field, because it cost more to pick them than they could get from wholesalers.
But it was practically a crime to let such delicious fruit go to waste. So Mrs. Bradshaw cooked up some preserves and fruit syrups, and began selling them to area specialty shops. As her reputation grew, the fledgling company began getting orders from Dallas and beyond. Gourmet Gardens was born.
From that humble beginning, family-run Gourmet Gardens has grown to create dozens of additional farm-fresh products, all produced in Rusk: pickles, salsas, chow-chow, and salad dressings.
I remain partial, however, to the fruits that the company built its reputation on. The peach halves and fruit salads, beautifully packed in a glass Mason jar, are the best I’ve ever tasted. The preserves, including apricot, cherry and blueberry, are bursting with fruit and real cane sugar. And a newer item, fruit cobblers in a jar, are just the thing when I crave a home-style dessert but no one’s had time to bake. Made with chunky fruit, real sugar and strips of crust, you can eat the cobbler straight from the jar, or slightly warmed, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. That’s my kind of gourmet.