Mother Nature has not been kind in the U-Pick universe this year.
The whole June-uary weather event means that berry ripening and picking is well behind schedule. But, the good news is that berry farms are starting to open and local fruity yumminess will be available for early risers for the next few months in one form or another.
Strawberries are always the first berries of the season around the Valley and local strawberry farmers contending with the weather are finding it very slow going this season.
Our favourite spot for picking is ASH Berry Farm on Royston Road. Owners Don and Louisa McClellan have turned this great small farm into a spray-free berry haven. It’s the only spray-free strawberry U-Pick I know of in the Valley, which may explain why anyone but the earliest of risers has been out of luck for the last 10 days or so since their patch opened.
If you are craving digging in for your own local strawberries, plan ahead to hit the patch at 8 a.m. one morning as the berries have been slow to ripen as well. U-Pick is great fun for the whole family and a super way to stock up for the berry off season.
The chilly late Spring may mean that a bunch of us are out of luck in the strawberry universe. But, next on the list of ripening goodness are raspberries. ASH berry also has U-Pick raspberries, which look to be ready for picking by mid-July if these warm temps hold out. There are several other U-Pick spots around the area. We picked at Ashprington Farms out on the Old Island Highway last year and I haven’t checked to see if their raspberries are nearing the picking point.
Right smack in the middle of it all come my very favourite berries – the blue kind. Blueberries are ready for picking by late July. You can get some amazing organic blueberries out at Pattison Farms on the Old Island Highway in Black Creek and Natures Way Farm at 4905 Darcy Road off of Condensory Road in Courtenay.
Blackberries and gooseberries also are in season soon. We have plenty of picking spots for these wild gems. But, I’m not aware of any U-Pick lots for them. There’s a whole other post on wild berry picking in there that I’ll get going on.
A few berry tips:
- Plan on getting there early in the morning. The earlier the better in the berry universe as the best berries are morning berries and you take the chance of not getting any if you wait for later in the day.
- Bring a bucket for the kids. It is so much fun to teach them and let them pick their own. Plan for lots of horsing around and very little picking on their part and you’ll be way less stressed out.
- Wear hats and bring lots of water. It’s hotter out there than you think.
- Call ahead and see what the berries are like for the day. That way you don’t get out to a patch and discover that the current batch isn’t quite so pickable.
Whoa, my mouth is watering just thinking about fresh berry this and fresh berry that. Not to mention, they are great ways to combat Summer allergies and keep your immune system pumped up (check out Dr. Amy Wells post on that HERE)
Go forth and pick:)