I used to always think of fall as the time to pick your own fruits and veggies, like apples or pumpkins. Since becoming a mom, (to a total plant and animal lover,) I have discovered that there is so much a fun a family can have at a "pick your own" farm, not just in the fall but almost more so right now, at the height of summer, when SO much is growing everywhere. Here are some tips and ideas I have "picked" up recently that I wanted to share with you:
1) Look at what's in season now at your famers markets and ask around where you can pick your own. Many farmers don't have the funds to advertise, but they do allow visitors and pickers. What's more, you'll be able to enjoy a super fun day collecting food AND checking out the places where they grow, and all the cute farm animals that live there too. My kid's favorites are goats and sheep, though if there is one with a pony ride that's even more exciting of course.
2) Come prepared to carry the things you are picking, properly. For instance, if you are picking delicate things like blackberries or blueberries, which are ripe now where we live, bring many small containers with you so you only put a little fruit in each one, and don't smush those delicate ripe berries before you even get home. One large bag is NOT a good idea here. If you are picking stone fruits, which are also ripe here now, like peaches, nectarines or plums, bring a TRAY. It sounds weird, but they will bruise quickly in a bag or bucket, and one bruised stone fruit mold really fast in the heat and ruin the rest of the bushel quickly too.
3) Bring your sunscreen, bug spray to protect against ticks and stings, and a sunhat. Farms may not be by the seaside, usually, but you can burn just as fast working in a field as you can surfing waves on a beach day, or floating in a swimming pool. And they sure are full of bees!
4) If you pick a whole lot more than you can eat right away, there are many creative and delicious ways to keep that fresh fruit from spoiling, and enjoying it with your family for months to come. My favorite ways to do so are to make simple jam or fruit preserves by boiling the washed fruit with just a little sugar, water and a squeeze of lemon, and jarring for fall and winter. Or, if I don't have jars, I bake muffins, cupcakes, or fruit breads and freeze them. You can defrost them just by taking them out the night before you want to eat them, and they can last a long time in your freezer until then. So you can enjoy "fresh picked" blueberry muffins, warmed in your oven, in the dead of winter with a hot cup of cocoa. Yum!
5) Bring cash and either a map or a smartphone. Farms are in rural areas, (duh,) and that means they can be hard to find, and also far from any bank or ATM. It would be shame to not be able to buy any fresh fruit once you have picked it!
Do you ever go pick your own fruit at farms?