I’ve mentioned it here before (and you definitely know all about it if you follow my husband and I on our homesteading blog, the Broken Plow), but one of our main goals with food this year is to put away as much as possible. Eventually, we’d love to be able to eat almost entirely during the lean winter months off of what is stashed in our freezer and on our pantry shelves.
Our obnoxiously sized garden is a great start. And it’s been designed to be mostly a canning/freezing garden (focusing on lots of high production of veggies that preserve well and smaller amounts of varieties that are strictly for fresh-eating). Unfortunately, one area of food production we are sorely lacking is fruit. We’ve got some strawberries, blueberries and apples planted, but they’re still young and a long way from producing the kind of volume we need to get us through a year. This is where u-pick farms come in!
We are very fortunate to have an absolutely incredible u-pick farm near us—Huber’s Orchard and Winery. We love Huber’s because, while not certified organic, they do try to do as many sustainable growing practices as possible. They practice crop rotation and use cover crops. They only spray when absolutely necessary (like these strawberries, they were only sprayed once, and only before the fruits were on the plant). The Huber family has been farming this land since 1843 and they are passionate about keeping it as beautiful and healthy as it was when they first started.
They have about 600 acres atop a beautiful little plateau in the hills of Southern Indiana and they grow hundreds of varieties of plants (yay for crop diversity!). Which means we hit up Huber’s a few times a year to get our u-pick on. And the first one of the season—strawberries!
We hit the fields on pretty much the perfect day. It was beautiful, sunny, not-too-hot and the plants were absolutely bursting with berries. It’s always so funny heading up to Huber’s, because you get a mix of about three different types of people. You get the folks like us, the ones that are there for volume. The ones that plan on making strawberry jam and strawberry pies and strawberry shortcakes. You can pick us out because we’re the ones on our hands and knees getting dirty and getting covered with strawberry juice.
The second group is the parents with the kids. It’s so cute watching all the little kids running around the rows shoving ripe berries in their mouths and giggling. Since Huber’s is only about 20 minutes from Louisville city proper, most of them are city kids who probably have never even seen a strawberry plant before. It’s very cool to see them experience a tiny piece of country life. And I’m always a fan of teaching kids where their food comes from (and no, not the grocery store).
And then. The third type. They are the city adults. The ones that come up to spend a day in the country because they think it’ll be cool and folksy. They are the ones who pick four or five berries, decide it is too much hard work and then head back to the wagon. They are the ones squealing and complaining about how the berries are too juicy and how gross it is. They are the ones that flip their lids when they stumble onto a slug. It’s all about the experience for them, which is great, but it just makes me laugh because it feels like they are from a totally different world. There was a particularly entertaining group of early 20-somethings there yesterday and one guy kept complaining about how disgusting it was because the strawberry juice was ruining his “brand new kicks”. Protip: don’t wear your best shoes in the strawberry fields during prime picking season. Ha!
Because the strawberry plants were so full, we only spent about a half an hour out the fields. I’m thankful we went when we did, we wanted to pick a lot of berries, and having the plants so full (and the fields relatively empty of pickers thanks to being a Monday) meant that we made quick work of our picking.
We ended up with four flats of berries, which came to just shy of 50 pounds total. Honestly, I’d love to have gotten more than that, but two people can only carry so many strawberry flats back from the fields. There was one mom there with her five kids and they each had a flat to fill—she totally had then right idea. Strawberry picking is just the absolute perfect child labor. Ha! My old, 5′-9″ bones are creaking this morning from all the bending over, but kids, they have so much less distance to cover!
So you’re probably wonder what we’re planning on doing with 50 pounds of fresh strawberries? Well, I’m glad you asked! We’re, of course, eating a ton of them fresh and using a lot fresh in recipes over the next few days. They are so sweet, tender and delicious! But two people can only eat so many fresh strawberries before they go bad (and before we start turning into giant, walking strawberries). The majority of the rest of the strawberries will be going into one of three places. The really nice, firm ones will be hulled and frozen whole for use in smoothies, ice cream, and other recipes all year long. We’re hoping to freeze a good 30 pounds of them. The ones that aren’t so nice—too ripe, squished, cut, etc.—are getting hulled and then will be mashed into strawberry jam. I’m sure you’ll see a jam recipe or two in Wholefully’s future. We don’t go through a ton of jam in a year, but having a few half-pints in the pantry is always a good idea. The final way we are preserving them is with the dehydrator! We’re slicing them in half and the drying them out until they are crispy. We’ll stash these in the pantry for use in granola, cereals, baked goods or just eating as a snack.
Yum! I hope you’re ready for some strawberry recipes!