One of the great things about living in western NY is the abundance of farms and farm markets. Some of these farms even let you do the harvesting, offering discounts for picking your own. You might have to go a bit out of your way but it’s a great way to get some healthy food at a cheap price.
My sister Andrea always seems to know the places to go picking in western NY and Niagara County. I had stopped at a U-Pick farm in Clarence to try picking strawberries when they were first available. It was not very good picking. It took me about 20 minutes to pick one quart. They were charging $3.50 per quart for 1-3 quarts and $3/quart if you picked more. The following week I went strawberry picking at a farm in Basom, NY. If you picked 8 quarts, it was only $11! Since this was a lot of strawberries to deal with I gave some to my Mom and another sister. It only took an hour for me to pick seven quarts while it took just over an hour for Andrea to pick 11 (she gave me one of hers). I made a pie with some, froze some and sugared some up so they wouldn’t turn too quickly. My mom made freezer jam from some of the strawberries Andrea and I gave her.
Last week Andrea picked 30 lbs of cherries in about an hour and it cost her $30 at Murphy Orchards in Burt, NY. I bought a few pounds off of her. She uses a dehydrator to dry large quantities of them and then freezes the dehydrated fruit to make it last even longer. It’s a lot healthier and cheaper than buying the dried and sugared fruit in the store. She also recently picked up a gadget that allows her to pit four cherries at a time, speeding the process. She’ll freeze some whole as well. She went again the following week and picked another 24 lbs. She has a friend coming in from out of town Thursday and they’re going to go picking again. At that price, even if some go bad, you are still paying less than you would in a store for 1/4 the amount.
Raspberries are just now coming in to season, and blueberries aren’t far behind. The last few years we’ve made it a habit to visit Whittier Fruit Farm in Ogden, which is only about 2 miles from where we live, to pick raspberries. We’ve always gone there to pick apples ( my favorite is the Honey Crisp). We were disappointed to learn from their website that they had to remove all their raspberry bushes due to a virus! Luckily my sister Andrea has an abundance of raspberry bushes in her backyard. We picked 4 quarts this afternoon. I’m taking them home to eat and freeze.
Because of the nice spring the harvests are early this year. I’ve seen lots of ads in the Sunday paper advertising you pick farms. Green Acre Farms in Greece is another great place to go picking. They have strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, stone fruit like apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. In the fall they have apples and pumpkins.
Picking fruit is a rewarding experience, with your family or by yourself. Your kids might appreciate better what goes into getting that quart of strawberries to your kitchen table. I would suggest calling the farm ahead of time to confirm times and prices. One of the benefits of picking your own is you can usually eat all you want for free. Besides, at these prices, you can afford to gorge yourself when you get home.