Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fieldtrip: Blueberry Gardens

From spring through fall, my children and I will take occasional fieldtrips to a pick-your-own farm for whatever fruit is in season. (Yes, we refer to our outings as fieldtrips, just like in school.) Often, this is an intentional trip, in that we plan to go to the orchard to get 30 pounds of apples, which turns into jars and jars of applesauce, pans of fried apples, and multiple apple pies. But sometimes, its an impromptu stop because we saw a sign that said “fresh pick-your-own strawberries – straight ahead!” and all the sudden have a taste for fresh off the vine fruit. We are just as likely to stop for a farmer’s stand to get a load of sweet corn, peaches, grapes, berries, and nuts (one reason my husband doesn’t like for me to do the driving when we go to the Eastern Shore).

As a kid, we had, at different times, different houses, a pecan tree and a cherry tree in our backyard and I took for granted that pecans and cherries would always be available by the bag full, just a short walk from my kitchen. I imagine its returning to these childhood memories that keeps me driving miles through meandering country roads to find the garden patch at the end of the path of road-side arrow signs.

Fresh fruit is one of the sweet surprises of summer. And although, kids may decide they don’t like blueberries when you pick them up at the grocery store, they just can’t seem to resist popping one of the almost black berries into their mouths when they’ve picked it off the bush with their own hands. Each time we pick strawberries, I hope that the farmer has calculated the pound that’s eaten while walking through the fields into their price. Aside from the experience of tasting a fruit they otherwise may ignore, it’s a learning experience of what fresh fruit actually looks and tastes like. Last summer, on our southern road trip, we stopped at a peach stand. My daughter #2 was amazed and confused by the fuzzy fruit with a huge stone in the middle, that was nothing like the peach slices she found in her lunchbox.

In Ashton, just beyond Olney, Maryland, there is a little farm on the side of Rte 108 called simply “Blueberry Gardens”. Its an organic farm owned by a few farmers that’s open seasonally, according to the weather and fruit availability. My daughter was there for an activity (in their main house, they have space for drama classes, yoga, and massage therapy) and while I waited for her, she suggested I go pick some berries. At the edge of the field, there was a table with a box of berry baskets in various sizes, a price sheet, and a clear plastic box. A sign taped to the table instructed pickers to take a basket, pick their berries, then, according to the amount of berries picked, to leave the appropriate amount of money in the box on the table. Pick-your-own on an honor system!

For a few quiet moments, I wandered the rows and picked a pint of blueberries. This morning, I had a delicious blueberry coffee cake with my morning coffee. For $4, that’s a pretty good bargain.


Robyn said...

They have a few cool strawberry farms in Greensboro. Have to see if they have any blueberries.

Mommyx4 said...

Blueberries are so much easier to pick than strawberries. Bt fresh strawberries, hot from the sun, are so delicious.