Sunday, September 11, 2011

Picking Raspberries

We’re towards the end of raspberry season in Wisconsin! The season only lasts a few weeks and is very sensitive to the weather each year. This year’s season started about two weeks after last year’s.

The first day an organic raspberry farm a few miles outside of town opened its doors to “U-Pick,” our playgroup happily gathered up our toddlers and drove to the farm. It was LE’s and my first time picking raspberries, but it wasn’t going to be the last.

Upon arriving to the farm, we were greeted by Paul, one of the owners, who enthusiastically helped us newbies get set up with a few empty baskets, go through a quick lesson on how to pick raspberries, and teach us the rules of his farm:

  1. You absolutely must eat as many berries as you can while picking. You won’t be weighed upon arriving or leaving the farm. 
  2. You must talk to others while you are out there because this is a community activity. 

Forgetting to stop to pick up cash on the way, I asked Paul if he would accept a check. He informed me that they accept cash, checks, and IOUs... seriously! Oh, and did I mention that everything is beyond reasonably priced?  Huge heirloom tomatoes for about $2/ea, large red bell peppers for $1/ea, shallots for $4/lb. And the raspberries? $2.50 a pint.

Prior to hearing his rules, I was fully prepared to pay for an extra pint of berries due to LE not being able to resist stuffing her face as we went along. As it happened, she did stuff her face, often times stuffing berry upon berry into her mouth, faster than I could pick them. She had no qualms picking her own berries, either.

I gained a whole new appreciation for raspberries after that first day of picking. For one, I should have started earlier in the day. By the time I got there, others had already gone down the rows and picked the most obvious berries. I had to hunt for them by lifting the vines (branches?) and looking for them on the hidden undersides, much like small tomatoes grow, if you’re familiar with that. Unlike tomatoes, though, raspberries don’t continue to ripen after they are picked.

You can start to see in the photo above the white part that is left on the stem after the berry is pulled. Prior to picking the berries myself, I was a little squeamish with the little specks inside the berry. I thought they were the beginnings of mold, dirt, or something gross; however, now I know that even the freshest of berries have these little things in them.

That first day, it took me about a hour or so to pick 2 pints of raspberries. We ate them so quickly that I went back two days later, filling 4 pints of berries in about an hour, even while holding LE (she wasn’t digging being there that time and passed out the minute we got to the car).

If you are looking for something inexpensive to do one day, you should see if there are any “U-Pick ‘ em” farms near you. It’s a great experience, and you can’t beat the price. If you happen to live in the Madison area, you should definitely check out Blue Skies Farm in Brooklyn. Season will  likely go through the end of this week, so hurry!

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome!!! My mom used to take my brother and I to do this when we were young. Loved it.


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