This article originally appeared in the July 2016 “Foodie 40″ issue of Buffalo Spree Magazine.
indigo clusters. The distinctive, earthy-sweet fragrance of real strawberries that’s nearly impossible to imitate in a candle, try as manufacturers may. Thorny tangles of raspberry bramble studded with fragile, intricate jewels of fleeting sweetness. For many, summer in Western New York means it’s time to pick the berries.
Scores of local pick-your-own berry farms like Greg’s U-Pick in Clarence Center, Paul’s Organic Farm in Holland, Murphy’s Orchards in Burt, and Fenton’s Produce in Corfu have been serving several generations of the same families for 30 years or more. Their fields are the destination for a warm-weather tradition largely unfettered by time – picking today is the same methodical treasure hunt as it was for our mothers and grandfathers.
Dedicated harvesters can pluck several pounds of berries in just a few hours driven by the vision of of warm pies, jars of jam and jelly, and freezers full of colorful fruits to enjoy over our white winters. But it’s nearly impossible to resist sampling a few sun-warmed berries along the way; as one might expect, the bucket-to-mouth ratio changes as the age of the picker decreases.
A fast few weeks of strawberries starts in June around Father’s Day; blueberries begin the second or third week of July and last five or six weeks; and raspberries will ripen towards the end of August through the first frost in early October.
Growers are saying this summer looks good for picking – a mild winter meant very little frost and snow damage to the bushes, and many farmers were able to get out and do a lot of healthy pruning to encourage more robust growth on the bushes.
Pickers are encouraged to check with the farm ahead of time to make sure availability and conditions are ideal (most farms update Facebook, their website, or a phone message daily), and to bring containers to pick into, drinking water, and sunscreen. If a sudden storm or an ornery toddler cuts picking short, berries are usually available for sale in pre-picked quarts on the way out of the field.
For a listing of local pick-your-own berries, visit www.pickyourown.org/nywest.htm