For the past few years, my family and I have gone to a local farm each fall to pick some of our own vegetables. For $10 per person (for anyone older than 3; babies and toddlers are free of charge), you go on a hayride to various vegetable fields (carrots, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, pie pumpkins, etc.) where you can pick to your heart’s content. We usually only pick enough to last us a couple of weeks, but not this year. Oh no. This is the year I’m getting serious about local food preservation.
That won’t be the only farm I will visit this year. I’ve already made two trips to another one where my family and I harvested strawberries and peaches and I still hope to visit another farm to pick apples. In just the past month I’ve made and canned two kinds of jam, made peach ice cream, dehydrated strawberries and apples, made and froze batches of salsa and spaghetti sauce, as well as blanched and froze several pounds of green beans. Nearly all of that has been with local fruits and vegetables (including some from our little garden).
That, of course, begs the question – where does one find local farms to pick fruits and veggies? It’s actually as easy as clicking over to Pick Your Own. The site is organized by state. (Our friends to the north can check out Pick Your Own Canada and there are additional PYO farm lists for locations around the world, also available at the main PYO site.) In addition to having lists of You Pick farms, the site also contains instructions on canning, freezing and drying; picking tips; many recipes; and more.
When you plan a trip to a You Pick farm, be sure to bring snacks or, even better, a picnic lunch, as you’ll likely spend several hours there. Also remember sunscreen, hats, and to wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. (You should have seen my son Julian’s face and shirt after he’d eaten his share of strawberries!) Oh, and don’t forget your camera! You’ll want to capture the memories and looks on your children’s faces as they pick and eat their own food. Another thing to keep in mind: some farms have other produce available for sale in addition to that which you pick yourself, so bring money if you are interested in that and your own reusable bags as well.
Even though I’m getting into this food preservation thing more-so this year than I have in the past, I am not likely to stash away enough local fruits and vegetables to last us all winter this year, and that’s OK. I’m enjoying learning about some of the farms in my area and the different ways to preserve our food, and my kids are enjoying the farm experience. I think any time you make the effort to buy and/or preserve ANY local food, you are doing a good thing. It is better for the farmer (cuts out the middle man), uses less energy to transport it, and, because you get the food when it’s fresh, it tastes better and has more nutrients.
For more tips on food preservation, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation or the Ball Fresh Preserving site and definitely get yourself a copy of the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving. For more reasons why it’s good to buy locally, visit this Top 10 List.
Have fun and happy pickin’!
Original 5 Minutes for Going Green post.