- Resist the urge to go on the first day of picking. The picking will be easier and more abundant about a week or so into the picking season for most things. In my experience the only exception would be cherries, whose season is only about a week anyway so go as soon as those are ready!
- Plan on going first thing in the morning, especially if you live somewhere very warm. This is not only to ensure you don’t overheat, but you will avoid all the late morning and afternoon bug pests. And especially with something like strawberries and cherries that get picked over very fast, you will be getting the best of the best.
- Bring your own containers. When I go in, I’m going for a haul. I’m talking 40 pounds of strawberries. 60-70 pounds of blueberries. I don’t want little pint containers. I want buckets that I can easily carry, and that hold a lot without damaging the fruit. Big plastic buckets, old plastic ice cream containers, etc work well. Some U-Picks offer decent containers you can borrow. Just check if there is a limit or a price on them.
- Plan to go on a day when you have time to tend to your haul right after picking. You don’t want to go picking and then let it sit in your garage or home for the next day or so until you can get to it. You want to come home right away, get them washed up, and prep them for what you plan to use them for. A simple wash I like to do is just plug up your sink and start filling with water. Add in a few big shakes of baking soda and vinegar with a squeeze of a full lemon and swish it around.
- Freeze, freeze, freeze! Do you know how much frozen fruit costs at the store? A lot! Get that fruit up on some baking sheets after you wash them, and freeze them flat. Once frozen you can dump them into plastic freezer bags and stack them up in your deep freezer. Use them for your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or baking. You will never have to buy another freezer bag of fruit!
- Dehydrate! Wash up part of your haul and get them right onto your dehydrator trays to go for a few hours. Store the dried berries in airtight containers to add to your granola, oatmeal, yogurt, or trailmixes. If you don’t have a dehydrator do them on the lowest setting in your oven. I only recently got a dehydrator and have done them in the oven for years.
- Jam! I’m actually not much of a jam maker, although last year I did make blueberry jam for the first time and it was the most amazing thing I ever tasted! Hit up Google – there are many recipes using natural pectin, or even no pectin, and all using either very low if any sugar or natural sweeteners like honey.
- Eat them fresh. There is just nothing like fresh picked fruit. You can make your fruit last longer by giving them a quick baking soda and vinegar bath. Eat up all you want while they are in season! That is what they are there for! Stock your body up on the antioxidants so you have a storehouse once the long winter sets in.
So tell me! What do you go picking this time of year?