Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Very Berry Memorial Day Weekend

Part of this weekend's adventures included a LOT of berry picking. It's the season for it, so look around you.. even in the city there are berries everywhere!

These berries are often called serviceberries, although there are a lot of similar varieties with many names (juneberries, saskatoon berries, and more...) According to the Herring Run website for their annual berry festival, serviceberry is native to the area.

They look and taste a lot like blueberries! Or maybe a blueberry-cranberry mix. I can't believe I had never heard of them until recently. I'm guessing they have a lot of antioxidants since they have the same deep purple color as blueberries or wine.

I found a bunch in the city on Monday and made a delicious crisp for a Memorial Day barbeque. After spending the morning in a hot open field sorting out good strawberries from moldy ones, I have to say that the serviceberries were a lot more pleasant to pick. Plus they were free!

We spent some time at the barbeque talking about the varieties of berry desserts: pie has a crust, cobblers have a battered top crust, buckles have a battered lower crust that the berries bake into, and crisps have a dry crunchy topping. In case you were wondering!

The recipe for the crisp came from one of the Moosewood cookbooks. The secret to getting that gooey berry interior: toss a teaspoon or two of cornstarch along with the berries and sugar.

A nearby mulberry tree was also very ripe.

Since the berries were a little out of reach, we set a tarp under the tree and shook it so the ripe berries fell down. Not quite enough for jam or wine, but enough for a yummy bowl to share. Sometimes mulberries can be bland, but these were happily nice and sweet.

Some of us brought up the question of foraged food safety, but if there was any lead or anything like that in the soil, most often lead stays in the plant, it doesn't come into the fruit (or so I have been told).

Also, I was eating the fruit with chemists and they weren't really concerned about the potential trace amounts of chemicals. We're likely exposed to many more things on a daily basis. I rinsed the fruit, and that was that!

After picking 13 lbs. of strawberries for tonight's canning workshop, Monday was definitely a berry filled day!

I thought a lot about the energy efficiency of pick-your-own farms while picking the strawberries. On the one hand, I'm supporting a local farmer, which ensures that food doesn't have to travel as far. On the other hand, there are a lot of individual cars are driving to the fields, and many berries don't get picked because people are there more for fun than for harvesting crops. So many variable to living sustainably!

I rationalized my driving to the farm with the fact that I'm getting berries for the group of people coming to the canning workshop tonight, and it's for the larger purpose for retaining our food preservation skills.

And now I've got to rest and prepare for the workshop tonight! See all the folks who RSVP'd there!


mscharmschic said...

The serviceberries sound delicious. I really want to try them after reading this post ;)

Kara Mae said...

since I looked back at the workshop post and you already appear to have enough people, I think I am going to back out for monetary and exhaustion reasons.
However, I think we should have a big old canning session at some point soon, whether it be pickles and/or fruit.
Where I was last weekend, the forest floors were absolutely covered in blossoming strawberry plants (real ones). It was bittersweet since I probably won't be able to make it back there any time soon.
In a week or so they should be teeming with fruit.. if deer don't get to it first.

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