U Pick Berries

You go to the store or the farmers market and find that a small clamshell of blueberries is $4-5. If you make a little effort to head to Apple Hill, you can get a pound of blueberries for $3.50 if you pick them yourself. And isn't that more fun anyway?

Apple Hill is a lot more than apples. Most people know about the wineries and Christmas tree farms. But there are also places to pick your own cherries and berries at the right time of the year. Cherries are better in June and the berries are better in July.

Poor Girl Kimberly and I headed up on Saturday with blueberries as our goal. Bolsters Orchard was our first stop where a bucket holds six pounds of berries and the going price was $3.50. If you don't want to pick them, there are pre-picked bags for a little more money.

We got there when they open at 9 a.m. and it was already getting pretty hot. I had heard that berries needed to be picked in the cool morning for better sugars and so we had gotten there as early as we were allowed. It took us about an hour to fill our buckets. I got 5.5 lbs and Kimberly got 3. The nice thing about the blueberries is they aren't thorny like black and raspberries. Blueberries are available til the end of July.

Our next stop was Patrick's Berry Farm. They have about six varieties of black berries and three of raspberries. The raspberries weren't ready except for these tiny black ones that Kimberly picked. She really liked the flavor. I wasn't interested in such tiny, seedy gems that cost $5.50 a pound.

I opted for a mixture of Marionberries, Boysenberries, and New Zealand blacks, which are thornless. I thought the best tasting were the Marionberries. Kimberly thought that the berries that were warmed by the sun tasted more alcoholic. I guess a bit fermented. I tried my best to pick berries hidden on the inside of the vines under the shade of leaves.

The blackberries were $4.50 per lb. and raspberries were $5.50 per pound. The raspberries weren't going to be ready for a few more weeks.

It doesn't take long to pick enough berries to keep you going depending on what you are going to use them for. To keep them the best, take them home and rinse them. I lightly swish them in a bowl of cold water with a bit of veggie wash to get rid of the dust, loose leaves and thorns, ants, and pesticides. I then transfer them to a clear, cold water bowl for a second rinse, drain them in a colander and then poor them on a towel. I line cookie sheets with wax paper and then arrange the berries on the tray loosely. Berries freeze really quickly. After about an hour you can then transfer them from the trays to freezer bags and then work on the next batch of berries. This method works great. You just have to have a light touch with the berries for each step.