On the last Sunday in June, Grandmas Noel, Kathy and Donovan took a little trip along with a guest appearance by Grandma Denise. We picked up a Zip Car and traveled a little bit south of the big-shouldered city to the Garden Patch Farm and Orchard in Homer Glen, IL. Truthfully, Denise and Noel got the car and picked up Kathy and Donovan. Denise was the driver for which we were all most grateful. [We don't drive- We're Grandmas.]
It only took about an hour to get to the farm, and we were all surprised by that because the area is so much different from the city and only a short distance away. It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the oh-so-blue sky. The super bright sunshine could have baked us alive, but there was a strong breeze that kept us cool. Plus, every grandma remembered her sunblock and/or floppy hat.
When we got there, we were greeted by chickens! [All the grandmas want their own chickens.] There is a cheery red barn where the farm sells it's produce and where you can pay your $5.00 to do your own picking. We paid up, got our lady bug hand-stamps, collected our berry buckets and listened carefully to the directions on where to go on the farm to pick the ripe stuff. Then we set out.
Raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, currants, and sour cherries were all ready for picking. We found the raspberries first. The key to raspberry picking is to go to the middle of the bush where the berries are protected from the sun and birds and other pickers. You know a raspberry is ripe when it pulls easily off of the white core that attaches it to the bush.
From the raspberries, we wandered up to the cherries. I hadn't planned on picking any cherries, but when I saw them, bobbing like Christmas ornaments bright and shiny red, I had to taste one. They were amazing. I was thinking sour cherries would be inedible without cooking, but turns out sour cherries are traditional jam and pie cherries. They tasted just like pie filling without sugar; also known as awesome. I would go back just to pick more of these cherries.
Lastly, we went hunting the strawberry. I probably ate as many as I put in my box. There is something magical in having a strawberry-scented breeze blow over you as you bite into a sun-warmed berry. That's worth my $5.00 picking fee any day. Despite tales from the farm staff of there not being a lot of berries, we found plenty without having to look too hard.
We spent about two and half hours picking and we each went home with strawberries, cherries and raspberries. More than we could use immediately, but the plan is to freeze them and post our creations with them later. Noel bought some super fresh [as in laid that morning] eggs from our chicken friends which she said were amazing. It's definitely not a money saving venture- raspberries and cherries were $6.00 a pound and strawberries were $3.00 a pound. Add in the picking fee and our car rental and we certainly could have purchased our berries at the store for much less. However, you don't get to eat berries off the bush in the store. We all agreed that our fun was worth every penny.
With what Kathy didn't freeze, she made strawberry vinegar, strawberry buttermilk cake and is in the process of "fermenting" a sour-cherry liquor. Donovan washed and pitted or sliced or cleaned up all her berries and put them into frezzer bags for later.
Instructions on the various ways to freeze strawberries.