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A few hours of leisurely plucking and you can take home enough smoothie materials to last the year at half the market price
Berry picking makes a great date, and you can stock up on berries to freeze for winter
Some consider berry picking a chore, but to me, it’s a fruitful adventure. Last Saturday I took my hubby picking, promising him a berry-enhanced ice cream sundae afterwards. Bribery was unnecessary.
Strawberry picking at Emma Lea Farms, located on Westham Island, which is about 30 minutes from Vancouver just south of Richmond, was an ideal Saturday date.
Westham Island is easy on the eyes. We crossed the Fraser River on the historic, beryl-green swing bridge, keeping a lookout for migratory birds – another island draw – among the waving grass. The sun shone. An amiable islander said hello. Navigation was simple.
Once on the island, the berry farms are clearly signposted along the main road. Five minutes later, we pulled up to Emma Lea, a fourth-generation family farm, itching for U-Pick action.
When heading out to pick berries, it’s crucial to call ahead for the daily dope, also known as the berry report. If zealous pickers have cleared out one farm’s crop, you’ll want to go elsewhere.
I chose Emma Lea Farms because when I called, they were very enthusiastic about the berry supply. Local farms expect the strawberry season to go strong for another two weeks. After that, the focus shifts to blueberries and raspberries.
Bring enough cash for your berry goals. It’s $1.50 per pound at Emma Lea’s U-Pick and that’s a standard price. We picked 21 lbs. of berries with ease. You’ll also want to bring your own containers (ice cream buckets, baskets or pails), a water bottle, sunscreen and a hat.
They’ll weigh your containers before you start and deduct the weight from your final picking weight. Make sure to grab one of the handy John Deere wagons and roll it out to the field with you. We found that, once burdened with multiple mixing bowls full of soft, juicy fruit, the wagon was absolutely necessary for transporting our load back to the weigh station.
Once you’ve got 20+ pounds of berries, you’ve got some decisions to make. So set priorities. Priority number one should be refrigerating the fruit as soon as possible. Second, taste some fresh fruit before you get to work storing the remainder.
We cleaned a decent amount of flavourful Clancy strawberries and enjoyed them with a scoop of coconut ice cream drizzled with agave syrup and dark choc shavings.
Strawberries are typically paired with white wines, but I like a light red wine with strawberries that have darker fruit, like the Clancy berry, so we had a sip of Sandhill’s Gamay Noir, which is only $19.99 from BC Liquor Stores.
After the sweet treat, it’s time to get to work. Storing strawberries is easy if you follow a few simple steps. Wash all fruit before eating and remove the stems.
If freezing your berries, dry then thoroughly towel, then place the berries on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze for an hour. When they’re semi-frozen, the berries and can be placed in an airtight container in the freezer for winter enjoyment.
Taraneh Ghajar Jerven is a brazen lifestyle writer who finds sitting still difficult. She’s lived all over the world, most recently in London and Oslo. During her adventures, she’s worked as a pastry chef and a financial journalist. Now she blogs daily for Kitsilano.ca and contributes to Western Living and Granville.