Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pick Your Own: Strawberries

The first weekend in May I went strawberry picking with the family. My gardening meet-up group sends out great reminders at the beginning of the peak season for picking produce utilizing local farms she finds on PickYourOwn.org, which is how we found Flanagan Farm in Pungo. Flanagan's chief crop is strawberries and after picking in their fields it is easy to see why they are third generation strawberry farmers. Flanagan's farm is off the main drive in Pungo, which afforded us a really quality interview with the farm, away from crowds, traffic and businesses. The rows were dry and well maintained and the staff were friendly and personable.

Pungo is renown for their Strawberry Festival that they host every year which draws an amazingly large crowd. Of course, the main event happens during the peak of strawberry maturation, when the fields have already had a majority of their fruit developed. We didn't attend the festival since we were already swimming in berry goodness by the time of the main event.
When Joshua and I went picking up the rows of strawberries there were still blossoms on the plants, there were no bugs and it was still cool outside, offering us a really wonderful first-time experience. In what seemed like no time at all, we had already picked 17.5 pounds of strawberries. Joshua kept finding "the perfect strawberry" and, well, he had 9 pounds of berry in his box to prove it.
What did we do with it all? Well, I hadn't prepared our house to receive all of our very ripe produce, so we froze some of it, we made some of it into buttermilk and mint smoothies and ate a lot of it with cream, but we also tried to get our friends interested in the local farm offerings by dropping off bowls full of berries to our neighbors.

As much as we loved the PYO scene, our main reason for driving into the country to pick something that was available at my local market was for the sake of my daughter. We have decided together one of the best things we can teach Aoife at her young age is where food grows. It doesn't grow in a package on a shelf in the grocery store. She needs to see how food is grown, harvested and how superior the taste and quality is when you are close to the source. Aoife has been reared exclusively on breast milk and strawberries are her first taste of "mommy" food.
Turns out, she loved it as much as we did!

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