It’s that time of year when the fruits and vegetables are plentiful and oh so delicious!!!! I like to visit at my local farm stand or the farmer’s market. But what’s even better, and I really enjoy doing a lot, is when I can go pick it by myself. It’s a great activity that you can and a fabulous way to get your kids outdoors. Sometimes, you just need solitude and you can go by yourself.
My mother was really big into harvesting anything and everything. She worked as a raspberry picker every year and would preserve the seconds. She would drag us along to pick apples or plums from the neighbors. Some of my favorite memories were when we would forage. Believe it or not, Montana has a foraging season which begins in April or May when the wild morel mushrooms are out and continues through summer when the huckleberries, wild raspberries, strawberries, asparagus, blackberries and thimble berries are plentiful. My mother taught all of us kids how to recognize wild herbs and fruits. I remember playing in the gully with my friend and her dad, who was a Boy Scout leader, and he showed us a lot of what plants were edible. It saved us time when we were hungry because we didn’t have to pack a lunch or go home to eat.
I have shared this tradition with my children. And they love it. It’s one of the things we wait for all year and is a regular summer-time tradition. I love watching them get tangled up in the bushes, their little faces and hands covered in berry juice, their containers completely empty because what they picked ended up in their bellies.
If you choose to pick in the wild, know what you are picking. Not all berries, mushrooms and wild plants are edible. Also, check to see if you need a permit with your local BLM office or Forest Service office. A lot of the time, they will be able to tell you what is in season, where you can pick it, and if there are restrictions. With Facebook, a lot of local organizations also have that information and make it public online. A good source of information and guide can be found at www.ediblewildfood.com/foraging-for-food.aspx. Also watch for critters, you are in their habitat when you are in the wild. It’s always good to take precautions such as packing some bear spray with you.
If you are not comfortable picking in the wild or there is nothing harvestable in your area, there are plenty of farms that have U Pick sites. A great website is www.pickyourown.org. It is super easy to use and you just put in your zip code. I have picked apples and strawberries at sites found through this app. Many of them can be found on Facebook or Google, and you can also see their ratings and what they have available depending on the time of year.
Regardless if you pick in the wild or at a local farm, stay hydrated and wear comfortable shoes. I like to wear a floppy hat. Take plenty of picking containers, a recycled gallon jug works great if you cut off the top and rinse it well. You can even attach it to your belt so you are hands-free. Picking is best when it is not hot. Don’t forget to leave no trace. And most of all, have fun.