When summer is in full swing I develop a major love affair with local agriculture. My favorite of all the fabulous local foods are the berries. I feel like Sal in the classic children's book. I want to sit and gorge myself on the fabulous berries warm from the sun fresh off the plant.
Aside from the joy of eating berries fresh from the bush, there are lots of great reason to PYO this season. BYO container and pick to your heart's content! Here's why I love PYO berries:
* Save money. ~ This is a big one for lots of people. If spending $5 or more for a pint of blueberries makes you feel queezy, you're not alone. Luckily, PYO berries are a LOT less expensive than those found in grocery stores and farmer's markets.
* Plastic free. ~ Bring your own container (Shallow cardboard boxes, collanders, sturdy hemp or burlap bags all make great options) and skip the plastic. Many farms offer several options for containers to carry your berries in but bringing your own reusable container is best.
* Support local agriculture. ~ Local agriculture is great for the local economy and for the environment. Find PYO farms that use sustainable practices (just becuase they aren't certified organic doesn't mean they don't use organic practices, so ask!) and have a commitment to the local econonomy.
* Fresh frozen fruit, plastic free! ~ If you've ever frozen your own berries then you know that there is no comparison between these sweet, fresh tasting berries and the rubbery, unripe tasting varieties from the grocery store. Freeze your berries on a cookie sheet and then store them in glass containers (for strawberries, be sure to de-stem and slice prior to freezing).
* The best possible berries. ~ I can't even begin to count the number of times I've spent a small fortune on a package of raspberries only to open it and find that mold has ruined many of them. When you PYO, you get to select only the freshest, most perfectly ripe berries. You won't be wasting your money on moldy or underripe berries.
* Fabulous jams. ~ Canning is a lot easier than you might think. It takes some time to do it right but you don't have to be a dedicated suzy-homemaker to pull off some fabulous jams. Fresh ingredients make all the difference. Use your PYO berries to make jellies and jams and your finished product is guarenteed to be even better than the gourmet jams at the grocery store.
* It's fun and rewarding! ~ Seriously, picking berries is exciting: behind every leaf, under every bush, there is a bounty waiting to be found. When you've filled your containers and paid for your haul, you'll be impressed by what you've accomplished.
So grab your container and a friend or two, and head to your local PYO farm. And unlike Sal, try to bring a few berries home!