Pick Your Own

It’s that time of year again, the time when we can head out into the fields to pick our own produce. Last week, our family went out to Longview Farm to pick organic strawberries and pick we did – 21 pounds in all! Some of those strawberries have already been turned into strawberry jam and others have been frozen for later use throughout the season. Freezing strawberries is very easy – wash them first, pat them dry, cut off the stems, lay them flat on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. After a few hours, take them off of the cookie sheet and place in freezer bags. They will keep for at least 6 months if not longer.

strawberry picking

Strawberry Picking Crew

2 One Gallon Bags of Frozen Strawberries

2 One Gallon Bags of Frozen Strawberries

Picking produce in bulk, in season and “putting it up” (preserving it in some way) is an amazing way to enjoy fresh produce year-round. Picking your own often ends up being less expensive in the long-run and it is a great way to support local farms. It is always a fun family activity too, as many of the farms have kid-friendly activities or maybe some animals to see. It can be hot out there in the fields so be sure to pack water and some sunscreen! I always try to find organic “pick your own” farms, although sometimes that can be tough. This website is a great resource for finding “pick your own” farms (the link is for Eastern Pennsylvania but you can search anywhere in the country on this site). The site also gives pretty good instructions on how to make jams, how to freeze foods and other ways to process, pickle and preserve your bounty.

I had a hard time finding an organic blueberry farm until I discovered Emery’s Berry Patch in New Egypt, NJ. The blueberries should be ready for picking very soon, possibly even this week, and they have varieties that produce fruit throughout much of the summer. We’ll definitely get to Emery’s at some point this summer and we usually do apples and pears later in the fall too.

If you’d rather not pay for your food, you can pick it for free! Falling Fruit is an urban foraging mapping project that tells you the precise locations of edibles that are growing on public land. Users can add to the map if they know the location of any food sources. I added some mulberry trees in our neighborhood that are prolific producers of fruit. If you visit the site you will see that they also map the varieties of street trees (many not edible).

Happy picking (and eating!)

Protecting Your Skin in Summer

Summer has arrived and beach weather is finally here in the Northeast USA.  There was an article about sunscreen last week in the New York Times that inspired me to write a post about sunscreen and skin care. I also just spent a weekend studying with Marnae Ergil about treating dermatological conditions with Chinese herbal medicine. So I guess I have skin on my mind.

The gist of the Times article was that we should be careful to select sunscreens that offer “broad spectrum protection”, that is they screen out UVA and UVB rays. Although there are some other helpful hints in the article, this news isn’t too earth-shattering. I think many of us have been using broad spectrum, sunscreens for years. A resource that I have found more helpful is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreen. The EWG is an amazing non-profit who, in their own words (which I agree with!):

 

“… is the nation’s leading environmental health research

and advocacy organization.  Our mission is to serve as a watchdog

to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun,

so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment.”

 

The EWG also publishes an incredible online guide called Skin Deep which rates and reviews the safety of all kinds of cosmetics, including: skin care products, hair care products, make ups, perfumes and oral care products. Their ratings are based on scientific research and they let you know if the research is high quality (or not) and if there are multiple studies that support the particular findings. If you are concerned at all about the products that you are putting on your body, I would bookmark this website and spend some time searching for the products that you already use. You might be surprised at what you find!