Throughout the growing season our family frequents many different U-Pick farm operations in an effort to stock our pantry and freezer with all the locally availible yummies we can get. This way we have them to use and enjoy throughout the entire year, as opposed to being slaves to the grocery store’s usually higher prices and often out of season produce selections.

U-Pick pricing is often cheaper than buying prepicked stuff, plus it’s a nice adventure that makes you savor the harvest that much more.

One thing newbie U-Pickers don’t usually know about is transport and picking containers. Bringing your own gathering containers and “take home” containers is a great idea whenever you go out to U-Pick. Often times smaller operations won’t have an abundance of containers for you to pick in and to transport your goods home in. Plus, places that do provide these containers will inevitably have to pass those container costs on to you. As a rule of thumb, we always just bring our own containers. It reduces the burden on the farmer we are picking from, plus it reduces unnecessary waste.

Assume you’ll encounter bugs on your u-pick adventure. Dress in long pants with socks, bring snacks and beverages to sustain you in the heat and if you have small kids consider planning for ways to shade them so they aren’t cranky.

Strawberry Picking in Southern Indiana

For the 2013 year, our family ventured out for strawberry u-picking on May 25th 2013, the berrries were ripe much later than the previous year. It was a slow and much colder spring for 2013.

We opted to visit Kerchers Strawberry Patch again this year because it’s a sweet older couple that runs the patch, along with their helpers, and they don’t spray the berries.

Kercher’s Strawberries: 5025 W. Franklin Road in western Vanderburgh County, 812-568-5727

Finding places that are as chemical free as possible is our ultimate goal, not only for our own health and nutrition, but also because there is nothing sweeter than seeing your kids eating fruits directly from the plants. Finding unsprayed, or minimally sprayed U-Pick is often a challenge around these parts.

We brought both girls (a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old) and in about 1 hr 15 minutes we gathered about 25 pounds of amazing, fresh strawberries. Which we froze for use in baking, smoothies, ice cream and popsicles.

Cherry Picking in Southern Indiana

For the sweet, sour and yellow cherries, we headed out to Farview orchard here in Southern Indiana, June 14th 2013.

Farview Orchard Inc. Info: 4200 Oliver Springfield Road, Mt. Vernon, IN  47620. Phone: 812-783-2571. Wadesville, 7 miles south off U.S. 66 in Oliver. Call for hours & availability.

Farview also had some containers of picked black berries for sale when we went, they also had pre-picked sweet and sour cherries. We ended up opting for the sweet cherries this year. We got sour cherries last year but I’m really wishing we had chosen the yellow cherries that we sampled after our picking was complete. Those yellow cherries are the sweetest in my opinion!

Cherry picking is a great activity for the whole family! We took both girls and managed 25 pounds of cherries in about an hour! If you can bring a step ladder to help you reach the nice ripe cherries that are just out of reach further up the trees but don’t leave your ladder behind like we did.

When we got home our massive cherry pitting assembly line begun. Our cherries were dehydrated for snacking & granola. Then we made up a bunch of cherry almond jam to give a wedding favors at our wedding next month. The rest of our cherries are becoming cherry pie filling for future pies and pastries. Yum!

Berry Picking in Northern Kentucky & Farm Fresh Peaches

Because we are personal friends of the Garrisons, the new orchard owners, we headed out to High Hill Orchard to pick blueberries just as they were buying the orchard in the middle of June 2013. We also returned at the end of June and then got more peaches in earlu August 2013.

High Hill Orchard Info: 1018 Alves Ferry Rd, Henderson, Kentucky 42420. Phone: (270) 748-4597

Directions from the Pennyrile/US 41: Head east on the Audobon parkway and take the first exit- Zion/hwy 1078. Turn right onto 1078 and we are 3.7 miles down on the left, at the intersection of 1078 and Alves Ferry road. Call for hours & availability.

High Hill Orchard is an existing orchard that has just changed hands at the start of the harvest season. For the last year the previous owners were not able to tend it well and as a result, the trees and the grounds aren’t in tip-top shape just yet.

The thing about agriculture is, last years conditions & care impact this years harvests so not everything available from High Hill Orchard this year is pretty but that is just how I love it. They are openly selling off their “seconds” aka ugly or less than perfect harvests at a discount to those interesting in them. They also do have first rate produce available, just not as much of it since things weren’t tended well before they took over.

We’ve managed to preserve 30+ pounds of second rate peaches last month for some fabulous peach pie filling, we made just about 6 quart jars of the yummy filling and then we ate the rest of the peaches in various things like oatmeal & baked goods throughout the weeks. I just got another 30 lbs from them this week and am busy eating and preserving again!

High Hill Orchard also has blackberries now and they had raspberries & blueberries earlier in the season. Next year they’ll have strawberries too! You can read a recent newspaper article about them here where you’ll find a yummy peach custard pie recipe if you are interested.

The local growing season is my absolute favorite time of year because it’s a time of local food abundance, but to simply graze from the abundance would be a shame and it leaves you high and dry in the winter/early spring months. This is why we do so much bulk picking during this time. Lots of people are beginning to jump on the bulk local produce bandwagon.

Those who don’t know the ways of harvest preservation might not understand how one family can obtain so much food and then manage to utilize it all. You certainly don’t eat it all fresh and you really shouldn’t expect too.

One gal asked on a forum “what can one person need 30 lbs of blueberries for?”, on another forum a few optimistic folks bought a bunch of bulk peaches and they were sad that they’d begun to spoil at room temperature.

The thing about buying local, ripe produce is it’s not as shelf stable as the stuff you get in the grocery stores because it’s actually picked at the height of ripeness, unlike the grocery store produce that is picked prior to full ripeness and the transported to you.

Another difference between store produce and local produce is often the strains and breeds. You only typically find certain longer keeping varieties of produce in the stores (the Red Delicious apple for example), unlike the selections of many local farm stands (the White Lady peaches for example).

If you are bulking up on the local harvests here are some tips:

  • Plan to preserve the bulk of what you get as soon as you get home.
  • If you are picking your own produce, get some education about properly detecting the ripeness of the variety and pick accordingly.
  • If you don’t have time to preserve the same day you get bulk produce, get less ripe stuff or plan to properly store what you get so it doesn’t ripen rapidly.
  • Ask your farmer or fellow shoppers for tips on storing and preservation.
  • As soon as you get home wash and assess the produce, separate it out by ripeness & condition and store it accordingly.