I have fond memories of berry picking as a child, most are of wild blackberry bushes. I haven’t experienced much berry picking as an adult until today. I thought I’d share a few tips I learned along the way.
The first thing I did was seek out a local, organic U-pick farm on the internet. I found a few and narrowed it down by reviews, price, and location. If you live in the Portland metro area, I found a great place named Thompson Farms located outside of Damascus/Gresham. They have been established for over ten years, are family owned, and have always been organic. The berries are Oregon Hood berries, are only $1 dollar a pound, and are FABULOUS!! There is also a produce stand to pick up a few more fruits and veggies if your heart desires so.
This is the 1o pounds of berries we picked. It adds up fast :0If you decide to go berry picking here are a few tips:
- Locate a local farm of your choice-call ahead for field reports and price per pound. Individual farm’s crops vary so this is very important!! If you can locate a website, you should be able to find the phone number too. Some of these phone lines ring directly to a farmer’s house so please respect the hour of day you choose to call.
- Bring buckets/ tupperware/large bowels/baskets/boxes, etc. I saw one person with strawberry cartons from the store-what a great way to re-use. I purchased a few baskets with handles from the local dollar store.
- Weigh in your buckets/containers as you arrive. Look for the cashier. The scale is usually located there. This may be a good time to ask if there is any info you need to know, especially if you are a newbee. My friends and I were newbees and at the end we wondered what the pink flags in the field meant…next time we will ask?? We also didn’t realize we needed to weigh our buckets prior to check-out but the cashier graciously helped us.
- Go early;the earlier the better. If you can, go in the middle of the week or on the first day of picking. If not, go Saturday morning. Some days farms will have no pick days in order to let the crops ripen so make sure to call ahead.
- Wear proper clothing. Prepare for a mess. Wear clothes that can take stains and closed toe shoes are a really good idea. Hats are also a good idea. You may even want gloves.
- Bring cash and bring enough. You’d be surprised how fast those pounds add up. Plus, most farms have a produce stand that is very tempting.
- Know how much you want. I plan on making jam, so I wanted plenty. I may even go back for more.
- Baby wipes are always a good idea if you are bringing babies, toddlers, or children.
When you get home you have to clean the berries.I also wanted to freeze a few; here is my process. This takes some prep but is worth every minute of it..believe me , I’ve learned the hard way.
This was my work station
To wash the berries, I start with a large bucket full of cold water. I soak a large amount of berries in this water for a few minutes.
I then start pulling each berry out and pluck off the stem. I save the stems for my neighbor’s bunny. That is what the yellow bowl is for. If you want to save the stem, so be it 🙂 I place the strawberry in a nearby strainer. Once the strainer gets about 10-15 strawberries in it, I once again rinse them in cold water from the faucet. I then place the strawberries one by one on a wire drying rack with paper towels under it.
If you don’t own a wire rack like this, a doubled-paper towel will work on its own, but I highly recommend purchasing one for many reasons(cookies are one!) Go do other household things and let the berries dry in open air. If you plan on eating or using the berries right away, you don’t have to let them dry as long as you should for frozen berries. once dry, put berries in a container for storage in fridge. If I am freezing the berries I let them dry really good and then place them on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. I make sure the berries are not touching because I don’t want them to freeze together.
Once the sheet is full,place the sheet in the freezer for about 45 minutes to an hour. When walking, move slowly and make sure the sheet has a level surface in the freezer. You don’t want your berries rolling as you place them in the freezer. Once the berries are nice and frozen, take them out of the freezer. Give the cookie sheet a good shake and take the berries off. This is a fun part a toddler can help with 🙂 I(we) put them in a ziplock bag for freezing. The berries never stick together or end up smashing each other into a frozen juicy mess this way!! I do this with other fruits as well. Blackberries worked great with this method.I even tried it with peaches. I left the skin on, but it still worked. And the frozen fruit is SO good for smoothies. I am looking forward to those winter months when I can pull out frozen fresh berries and still know where my food came from! 🙂
Happy Summer & longest days of the year!!!!