Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Strawberry Picking Time Travel at Ward's Berry Farm

As soon as the weather turned nice (ok, better) back at the beginning of May, I've been all about fresh fruits and veggies. I've been growing some of the best lettuce I've ever tasted and some insanely fast-growing radishes, along with a whole slew of other things that won't be ready for a while. To do this, I had to pull up all the strawberry plants in our yard.

I know, I can practically hear you screaming "WHYYYY?!?" already. These were strawberries we had planted I don't know how long ago, and how many ripened fruits have I ever eaten from them? Exactly zero. They only grew the tiniest of berries that seemed to take forever to ripen, at which point they would go from green to vibrant red overnight and some pesky animal would beat me to them in the morning. It began to be such a constant disappointment that I had no problem ripping them up to make room for things like eggplant and tomatoes, which actually produce things that the animals don't care about.

Anyway, all that garden shuffling has left me wanting. Strawberry season is quick and short around here (although this year, it seems like lots of crops were ready early thanks to our warm spring). My friends and I had planned on berry picking a week ago, but we were beat out by a rainstorm, and we had to postpone to last weekend. With absolutely no rain in the forecast, we piled into the car and headed south on 95.

Ward's Berry Farm is all of 30 seconds off the highway in Sharon, less than half an hour from Boston. Their prices are reasonable for fresh and local produce ($3 for a pint, or $6 for a larger handle basket, above). The strawberry patch is huge, and we each had a couple rows to ourselves, although we stuck close together so we could chat while we picked. Strawberry picking is harder than, say, raspberry picking because the plants are all so close to the ground, and at times I felt like I was playing Twister in an attempt to not faceplant into the berries.

One thing about strawberry picking that I kind of loved and that also freaked me out at the same time? There are a lot of berries on those plants, and they don't all get picked. When they start to rot, they turn into these powdery, dessicated, zombie versions of real berries, and they tend to explode if you pick one by accident. Yeah, what's the good part, you're asking. Because they were rotting in the sun, the sugar was fermenting, and occasionally I'd get a whiff of strawberry liqueur. Every time I got a hint of the scent, I was thrown back in time to a trip to Italy, where my friends and I stayed in a terribly crappy hostel in Sorrento and bought a bottle of liquore di fragola, a supersweet liqueur made from local strawberries (the berries were still in the bottle, and you know we ate them all). I had to fight to not yell out "Strongberry!", which is what we called the drink (and which we used to yell at each other often after that). I could have stood in that strawberry patch, smelling the breeze, all day.

4 comments:

Adrienne said...

This is such a happy, happy post :)

Boston Food Diary said...

I know exactly how you feel! Strawberry picking is one of life's little pleasures! Cant wait to hear what you do with them!

Megan said...

I didn't know Ward's had berry picking. Sounds like a trip there and a stop at Crescent Ridge for ice cream afterward is in order. And oh, yes, berry picking is definitely like playing Twister! Even more so when you go in the rain like I did!

Rachel Blumenthal said...

Yay! I'm so glad you got a chance to stop by Ward's. I grew up literally right around the corner from Crescent Ridge, so I second Megan's suggestion for a combined Ward's/CR trip to Sharon :)