“We will open again for strawberry picking tomorrow morning (Saturday June 24) at 8am! We have had a lot of big strawberries ripen over the last few days and the picking will be great! See you tomorrow,” the Facebook status of Treworgy Family Orchard in Levant, Maine, read Friday.
It was like a siren’s call to the fields for me; it always has been. Ripe berries? I am so there.
The pick your own strawberry patch that my family and I would go to when I was a child would put a sign on the main road when their fields were ready for picking. I remember watching for it, day after day, staring out the car window until it would finally appear. Then I would beg and wait and hope we’d go soon. Inevitably, I’d be wearing white Keds that would be stained pink like my face, fingers, arms and clothes by the time we left. Pick one, eat one … maybe eat one more.
When my grandmother died, so did that tradition for me. Perhaps there was a year or two where I went without her, but really she was my strawberry picking partner — the one who’d take me and then let me eat berry after berry at home. Having children of my own gave me a chance to revive the tradition, and I did with exuberance. Most years of my kids’ lives, we’ve headed out to fields for strawberry picking. In fact, when my kids were very young, I would color coordinate their clothes to the berries we were picking — the juices did less damage that way.
There was this one year when Paige was maybe one or two years old, when she decided white berries were where it’s at. And when I tried to convince her to stop picking the unripe berries, she tossed hay on top of the brilliant red berries we’d picked. Cleaning the berries at home to make jam or just to eat was especially fun that year.
Sigh, the memories. It may seem odd, but what I wouldn’t give to be the little girl in the field dripping with strawberry juices again or the young mom with a toddler with a mind of her own. If only I ever had the foresight to appreciate life while it’s happening, instead of looking back with longing. But then, maybe I am learning that important lesson now.
On Saturday, just after a heavy rain, we headed out for picking. The lane from the parking area to the field was sloggy mud, a slippery mess that made me groan.
We stopped to pick up quarts for filling, and a few still-warm cider donuts. And then we headed into the rows of berries, plucking the reddest ones from the little squat plants.
My kids were excited to find gnarly berries, with little bumps coming out all over. They looked like many berries fused together. According to the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, this condition is sometimes called “cockscomb strawberries.” The cause? It’s usually weather related — no surprise since we had a weird hot/cold/rainy April through end of May. But it could also be a nutrient deficiency. Either way, the berries are safe to eat. And a little fun too.
On the way home, Paige asked if we could make a pie and strawberry shortcake with the berries … and would there be enough to eat too? Yes, daughter, yes. We picked so many.
And now we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors.
In the early days of blogging, I wrote often about food-related adventures like this. It seemed a good time to revive posts like that. Because a life of food isn’t just what you make — sometimes it’s about how you obtain it too. This is my post for Weekend Farmers’ Market Blogging. Hope you enjoyed it.