Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Berry Pickin' in Minnesota

Andrea's prize
I gotta tell ya: I had heard a rumor you could pick your own produce at farms, but I thought this was limited to Consumers Supported Agriculture (CSAs) or people with connections. Apparently I have a connection! Well a friend with experience, anyway.

Andrea, my crafting/baking/awesome New Yorker friend, regularly goes to pick produce from area farms. She picked strawberries earlier this summer (can't believe I missed that!). I was lucky enough to be invited to gather blueberries with her last weekend.

Bauer Berry Farms is an adorable family farm in Champlain, MN--about 40 minute north of Minneapolis. (It would have been a shorter trip if we didn't get detoured 3 times.) From their website:
"The Bauer Berry Farm has operated as a family farm since 1977. Throughout the years we have attempted to reduce our impact on the environment. We have planted wind shelter belts and rye cover crops to minimize soil erosion. A grass buffer zone around our wetland reduces run-off. We have introduced the use of many organic plant and soil amendments to our crops. We monitor our fields and apply pesticides only when absolutely necessary."

Berry picking wasn't as hard as I expected. We rolled in with our containers--me, a large salad bowl and lid; Andrea, an empty beer bucket and Rubbermaid bin--and were directed to a row of bushes we could start to assault. Each family or friends had a line of about 100 feet that you could pick. The bushes are about 3 feet high so sometimes squatting or bending over can become exhausting, especially for the berries that like to hide. After an hour we were satisfied with our haul. We got our buckets weighed so we could pay. I picked 5.3 lbs of blueberries for a grand total of $17! Find other Minnesota options for pick-your-own here.

Now to the fun part: using all those berries. Here are the usual options:
  1. Freeze 'em. Put berries on a baking sheet or plate in one layer and place in the freezer. Once they're frozen, put them in a freezer bag. Individually freezing them takes out the mushy factor. 
  2. Bake 'em. Make pancakes, muffins, breads, pie, and other delicious items while they're fresh. You can use your frozen berries later, of course, too. 
  3. Liquefy 'em. With a little sugar, water, and heat, you too could have delectible berry syrup. It lasts up to three months in the fridge
  4. Can 'em. Besides making syrup, blueberries can be made into jams and jellies and sealed up nicely in canning jars. 
  5. Dry 'em. Fancy people have food dehydrators to dry fruits and veggies. You can also use your oven; it just takes longer and is probably not as energy efficient. 

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