The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

June 22, 2014

Picking fresh berries is delicious fun

There’s nothing that tastes better than fresh produce from the garden. Sure a little work is involved but it pays off in the end. I like the fact that I know where my food is coming from. That’s why I like to hunt and process my own deer as well.

A couple weeks ago we took our daughter Kelsey to a U-pick strawberry operation and had a blast. Over the past few years more and more U-pick operations are popping up all over West Virginia providing a great place to get fresh and juicy berries. When we walked through the fence and started down the long rows of deep dark red strawberries I could feel the excitement building.

Of course Kelsey couldn’t resist so we let her pick the first one. As soon as you bit into the juicy red berry you instantly knew it was unlike any other strawberry you’ve ever eaten. They were unreal! Tara was busy picking and filling her box while I chased Kelsey around. She would pick a berry, then take a couple bites, put it in the box and pick another one and do the same. I couldn’t let them go to waste so I ended up eating just as many as Kelsey did. She may have picked a few green ones but quickly learned that they didn’t taste as good as the red ripe ones.

When all was said and done we left the strawberry field with almost 20 pounds of the best tasting strawberries I’ve ever eaten. Kelsey had strawberry juice on her face and arms, and I had stains as well — which lets you know you’ve done a good job picking berries.  

Needless to say we ate strawberries for days and Tara made the best-tasting strawberry jam ever with the rest of them. Afterwards we took a hike and fished a small creek before heading home. It was another wonderful day spent in the West Virginia outdoors. Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries will be ripe and ready to pick around the end of June and by the Fourth of July.

The cold weather we had this winter didn’t seem to affect the berries at all. There was plenty of bloom on all the berry bushes I’ve seen so it should be a great year for berry picking. I can’t wait to head to the farm and pick the wineberries when they ripen. They’re my favorite because they don’t have seeds that get stuck between your teeth. You just have to watch for snakes and bees and beat the bears to them. Tara grew up picking berries and she can’t pass up a ripe one. It makes me happy that Kelsey is growing up the same way.

The growing season is definitely here, although I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to come with the never-ending winter we experienced.  Our garden is doing well and will be producing fresh vegetables real soon. Like I said earlier, there’s just something about growing and taking your own food instead of relying on the grocery store to do it for you. Everything from the garden always tastes better. The same can be said for beef as well. We buy local beef from a local farm and then have it butchered. It tastes much better than the beef in the store and you know where the cow came from. That’s where we are blessed here in West Virginia living in the country. I often wonder if city folks even know where their food comes from or what they’re eating.

Get your berry buckets ready and go pick the tasty treats the woods provide this summer. Or find a U-pick operation and take the whole family, as it’s a lot of fun. Memories made in the great West Virginia outdoors last forever and there are plenty of opportunities right out our back doors. Get out there and enjoy.

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