Berry Picking is an annual Canadian Prairie Activity
If the strawberries are sweet and succulent when picked, they need nothing to enhance Nature’s flavour. Gorging on them is a once a year delight. Lately, a once every three to four year delight as it is becoming more and more difficult to find strawberries that taste like a strawberry is supposed to taste. It had been too long for me.
Vanja and I traveled out to Prairie Garden Adventure Farms last Friday to do some berry pickin’. They were late this season. I had written to them a few times to be sure we would be going when they had berries, but somehow, I didn’t quite understand how important the daily check-in with the farm was. Last message had said there would be a lot of berries on Wednesday or Thursday and we went Friday to beat the Saturday rush. Should have gone Wednesday, first thing. “We’re closed for berry picking today.” Oh, my. There was no specific days set on the site. I had written and asked when they would be ready and was told after the 15th of July… so I was working to get out and pick up a storm.
The first date was the 15th, but then the opening date was changed to the 17th as there weren’t enough berries, yet. so I had to go the following week due to my own heavy schedule… so Vanja came with me. The gals were so kind to let us into the field for picking, even though they were closed. And when we started picking, we really understood why. It took both of us well over an hour to pick one ice cream bucket each. The ripe ones were so far from one another and the field was so picked over with hardly any new berries ripening… but after tasting one, I would have stayed out there all day to fill a bucket. These were the best strawberries I had ever tasted. Ever.
They have two kinds planted in the field we were in. Both were equally delicious: Honeoye and Valley Sunset.
One kind was shaped like strawberry ninja turtles. So incredibly odd, lopsided and really off-putting visually, yet so sweet and full of bright and lively juicy strawberry syrup. They were kind of small, but ripe and good to go. Looking both kinds up on the internet, however, shows both perfectly shaped like the quintessential strawberry. So, who knows. Each shape came from a different part of the field, so we thought there were two kinds, and there were.
There is nothing like a bowl of ice cold crisp strawberries macerated in a skiff of sugar. There is nothing more a berry of this stature needs to release its wonder to the palate.
I have wanted to get out to Prairie Gardens Adventure Farms for a few years now. I still adore the salad they gave me the recipe for that they were selling at tomato fest one year. It is an incredible celebration of the harvest. The 45 minute drive from our West end home was a pure pleasure. There is nothing like country air.
I did not expect the old town set up. What a blast this place would be when fully operational. As an early childhood teacher, I used to take my students on Farm trips all of the time. This would be quite the adventure! They have around five to 6 thousand students through in September and October. What a brilliant idea. If you have children, get your family out to this farm for a day in the country. This is definitely the place to come for your Thanksgiving and Halloween pumpkins, too. Last year, I made an incredible Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie from one of their pumpkin pie pumpkins. Tam shared her recipe with me and it was another hit!
My back was OK, but my breathing was stressed. So, I crawled on my knees through the rows. I really enjoyed getting down and dirty as that was the only way I could find those berries. I felt a little guilty, as this is completely my thing. It is wonderful to spend the day with Vanja when he has a day off, and strawberry picking where the berries are plentiful would be a pleasure. However, he was a trooper, and after he tasted one, he was pretty excited, too.
I was tickled to find the giant perfectly shaped and yummy berries, too. Had to photograph them in the field. However, the point is that perfect isn’t important. Flavour is.
Vanja finished picking his bucket full faster than me. How did that happen? Then he took mine to fill it up… while I took some pictures…?
It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t sneak one of them.
The flowers were beautiful. The staff is wonderful. The parking lot was filling up as we were ready to go.
The berries were $18 dollars a bucket and we estimated this was about $3.00 a pound which is very reasonable for berries this tasty. (The two plus hours of labour to pick them are the fun “bonus”!) I guess the word is out, as these berries are picked over. That would not deter me from returning, however. If I had the time, I would be out there every day first thing until I got all I needed. They are just that good. Kudos to Prairie Gardens for having the Best Strawberries I Have Ever Eaten. I would have LOVED to get about 4 more buckets – but, we picked all that was in the entire field that day. Next year? I think I will take my sleeping bag out and be there before anyone else in the season.
I have one bucket left from our strawberry picking escapade. What do you suggest I make? I should try to preserve some of this precious fruit for the Winter….