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.
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!)