By Gabrielle L. Wheeler
Berry season is upon us and the kids and I have eaten quarts and quarts of strawberries already. To keep it economical, we’ve made two trips to U-Pick berry sites and have a third planned for this afternoon. U-Pick farms have discounted prices since the farms don’t have to pay for labor, sometimes up to half-price what the berries would be at a farm stand. Strawberry season is coming to a close, but it is only the beginning of July and the regional fruit harvest is just beginning.
Strawberries – Strawberries are regionally available in June and early July. Harvests at most farms are winding down now or have already ended. Strawberries are part of the rose family and originated in the Americas. The varieties that we know today are the result of a cross from a Chilean strawberry and those cultivated by Native Americans along eastern North America. When buying or picking, choose bright red fruits that are unbruised. Strawberries are high in Vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber.
Blueberries – Following strawberry season comes the blueberry harvest. Blueberries also originated in North America and are popular world-wide as a superfood because they are high in Vitamins C and K, antioxidants, and fiber. There are many varieties of blueberries, most notable in the shape and height of the bushes at a U-Pick site. We enjoy a local organic farm that has tall bushes and firmer berries.
Blackberries – Another member of the rose family, blackberries can be found in northern, temperate regions around the globe. Locally, wild varieties are common, and we gather a fair harvest off our property. The blackberry is not actually a berry, but an aggregate fruit, composed of numerous small “drupelets.” This fruit is high in Vitamin C and E, as well as folate and phytochemicals thought to ward off cancer. The blackberry harvest occurs in July in our region, simultaneous with the blueberry harvest.
In addition to the berries, our region also sports other U-Pick fruits during the summer and fall, including cherries, apples, and peaches. Our friends who participated in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) may even have the joy of being able to harvest their own vegetables as well. For me personally, I enjoy being able to make an economical and bountiful harvest at peak picking season. I freeze some of what we pick, make breads, deserts, smoothies and whatever else I can think of in the short time the fruit is fresh. The kids just eat them as is – usually finishing off a quart before we even make it home.