Monday, August 6, 2012

10 Tips for Going to You-Pick Farms


One of my favorite ways to spend time outdoors as a family is going to pick our own produce. Apples used to be the only thing we'd pick year after year, but we have really expanded our horizons, and I don't think we'll be able to skip picking some of these others fruits going forward! We've learned some simple tips and tricks about going picking, and since there's still a good two months worth of local produce picking to go (at least where we live), I thought I'd share them with you! 

10 Tips for visiting pick your own produce farms!
 

1. Do it!
Eating local and seasonal produce is not only healthy for you, but it's good for the environment (think of the traveling distant and/or out of season produce has to do, the manufacturing of packaging, ect). And if you think you like fruit and veggies now, wait until you try the fresh-picked versions of your favorites - you'll be amazed at the difference! Supporting local farmers is a win-win!

2. Bring a change of shoes.
Even if it hasn't rained in a day or so, the fields may still be muddy. And even if they aren't, they may be dusty, and they are definitely dirty either way. To keep your car clean, or if you plan to make any other stops on your way home, bring a clean pair of shoes to change into. It's also a good idea to bring bags or newspapers to put your dirty shoes in/on.

3. Don't forget to sunscreen!
Even if it's overcast, or it's September or October, you can still get burned by the sun! Picking usually takes 1-2 hours, depending on what you're picking and how much of it you want - and we almost always end up getting more than we planned on. Picking is addicting! We spent 2.5 hours in the blueberry patch last month, and I came home with red shoulders despite it being a cloudy day. It's not a bad idea to bring hats and sunglasses along, too.

4. Always have cash on you.
Most farm set ups don't have the technology to accept credit cards, and depending on the owners, they may not accept checks. Not only will you need cash to pay for what you pick, many of them have stands where you can buy other fresh-picked produce, and even things like baked goods and honey, and canned treats like salsa, jams and sauces.

5. If you're going with a little one, bring your carrier!
Wearing a baby isn't all that feasible if you're going strawberry or pumpkin picking, because you have to bend down, and the little ones shift forward (and may even fall out if you're not careful!). However, it is a life saver for upright picking such as blueberry or apple picking. I've worn my youngest for doing both of these, and it was the only reason I was able to go home with a good crop! Now that he's older, he even reaches out and helps me pick!

6. Bring gallon freezer bags and your own buckets/containers.
You-pick farms will have containers for you to use, but many times they charge you for them. Bring anything you have (buckets, sand pails, baskets) and they will have a system for charging you. For example, we brought our own sand pails for blueberry picking, and before we started, they weighed them so they could subtract the weight of the bucket from our final weight (they charged per pound for blueberries). For strawberries, we were able to use their containers for free, but would have had to pay to keep them. In both cases, we poured our berries into gallon freezer bags when we were done. Even if you own the pails you picked with, the bags will keep things from spilling all over your car on your way home! You may want to bring much larger bags if you're apple, tomato, or corn picking.

7. Pack water, snacks, and wipes.
It's a little difficult to break for a drink or snack when you're out in the field (whichever one it may be), but chances are - you'll need to re-hydrate or refuel when you're done. Have everything ready to go in the car so you and your little ones can recharge after your hard work - and of course, if your hands aren't muddy, they'll at least be covered in the juice of whatever you've been picking, so wipes come in handy before eating your snack.

8. When you get home, don't leave your fruit in the baggies - fresh fruit turns fast!
Fresh-picked, local produce (especially if organic) will not hold up the same as the stuff you buy in the stores. Almost immediately after bringing our strawberries home in our gallon baggies, they started breaking down. I had to chop them all up that day and bake with them within 2 days, because they were going bad so quickly. Keep this in mind when deciding how much to pick. Are you only going to eat them fresh? Only pick as much as you can eat in 1-2 days. Are you going to bake with them? Be prepared to prepare them the day you pick them, and cook with them within a few days. Do a combination of this if you plan to eat them fresh and cook with them. Blueberries are a little more resilient, and if you store them properly, they can last for over a week. Either way, keeping fruit refrigerated will extend their life span, and make sure you take them out of the baggies your brought them home in, or they will destroy themselves.

9. Know the right way to wash and store your produce.
If you search around the web, you'll find lots of information on the best way to wash and store each type of fruit. For example, you shouldn't wash strawberries before storing them, because it will speed up the process of deteriorating. Firmer produce can be pre-washed. My preferred method for blueberries and apples is to soak them in a combination of water and white vinegar for at least 10 minutes, then rinse them with cold water 1-2 times. After they are dry, they can be stored. Whenever I store any produce, I always add a paper towel or two to the container to absorb moisture - this helps keep them fresher, longer. I do this trick for store-bought produce as well - it's great for storing left-over bag salad for a day or two!

10. Get creative with your recipes!
Remember when I said that you'll be surprised by how much better your favorite produce is when it's fresh-picked? The same goes for cooking with them. Have you ever had strawberry shortcake with fresh-picked strawberries? It's a totally different experience. The same goes for nearly everything else you can think to make - muffins, jams, cakes - google around, check Pinterest for ideas - and ENJOY!

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! My only problem when we go picking, the little ones keep eating as they pick. :)

    ReplyDelete