Monday, June 2, 2008

The Kings Orchard

No bike, no computer, no problem! Dave drove me to the farmers market on Saturday where we did our weekly shopping before meeting up with my two friends Jennelle (who brought two additional friends) and Sharli (who brought her hubby, kids, and a neighbor boy). Everyone's shopping done, Dave headed back home to refrigerate our goodies and run a few errands, while the rest of us headed out for an afternoon of berry picking. Plantersville is a 45 minutes drive southeast of Bryan, which to me sounds far, just because I don't like to drive, but when the nearest major city is about 1-1/2 hours away, Plantersville is considered close. And there lives The Kings Orchard.

We'd planned this for months - visiting a pick-your-own berry farm. We had a few in mind, but when I called around last week, everyone was out of strawberries. But, but... It turns out strawberries come into season here in February. No joke. February!  But Sharli had suggested trying Kings Orchard, so I gave them a call. They have fresh flowers, veggies, blueberries, blackberries and - YES! - they still had strawberries for picking!

Upon arriving, we entered a long one-story building that serves as their headquarters. It was full of gift items - Kings Orchard tee-shirts, jars of honey and pecan syrup, and stacks upon stacks of berry picking boxes. With a few simple directions from the woman at the front desk on where to find all the goodies, we grabbed our boxes and buckets and split up all over the orchard - some went directly to blueberries and blackberries, Sharli and I headed right for the strawberries. I thought maybe this would be the last of the pickings, but there were tons of berries left, some of them not yet ripened. The deep red of the ripest berries was seductive and after more than 30 minutes picking, we found we couldn't stop. Even as we walked back towards the front of the orchard to meet up with the others, we kept stopping each time we saw that one perfect berry - it just had to be picked - then just one more and one more. Passing a row of blueberry bushes, we stopped again - just to get "enough" and the addiction was fed again. "Which ones should we pick?" Sharli asked. "The ones that look like that," I said biting into a deep blue one.  We picked our way only 30 feet into the row before deciding to turn around. Ok - just a few more. We're going to stop now, but oh, look at how many are right there on that branch. Yum.

Back at headquarters, we got in line to pay for our berries. I'll admit, they were expensive at $3.25 a pound, but we just barely made the end of the season and beggars can't be choosers. I'm looking forward to munching on these during some of those cold winter months (or as cold as Texas gets in the winter) when all that is available are grapefruit (really, you can only eat so much).  

Exiting the main building, we came upon a park area, shaded by the most beautiful trees. Waiting for us were Sharli's hubby and the kids. Lunch was spread for the boys and the rest of us awaited the others return (ok, we did nibble on some fruit - I mean it was right there and it was hot and the fruit was so sweet. But otherwise we waited).  One by one, the group trickled in laden in blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Hungry, tired, and perhaps a bit sunburned, we each unveiled our own picnic lunches and admired the handiwork of the others (some with homemade breads and cookies; others with stir fry, salad, and homemade berry crumble). It was a feast fit for a King's Orchard. We talked and laughed and ate while the boys played. Our bodies finally cooled in the shade, our bellies full, and our baskets full of berries for another time, we called it a day and headed back to town to relax the rest of the day away.

Back at home, as I was sorting through the berries, I thought back upon the day. This was my first visit to a pick-your-own farm and it certainly won't be my last. Not only did we take part in harvesting our own food, we have memories to share and goodies for months to come. As for now, I have some berries to freeze. This winter, I'll be eating the king's share.

Happy (and mindful) eating!


Melissa said...

now I'm worried...I've been putting off my berry picking thinking I had plenty of time. Yikes - I better get to it pronto!

Heather @ SGF said...

My hubby (native Californian) said you might have more time than you think. Call around to nearby farms to see what they are picking.

Keep in mind that our growing season is cut short by the heat. We're running in the low to mid 90's here already and have been for a couple weeks.

Hope you find some strawberries!

arduous said...

That sounds like so much fun. How do you freeze your berries so you can eat them in the winter?

Heather @ SGF said...

Some people say to wash them, but others say that just makes them mushy. "They" also say to put them on a cookie sheet to freeze individually and then drop them in a freezer bag so that you can pull them out one at a time without them sticking together. But who takes one berry out of a bag? Pish tosh!

All I did was to take the leaves off and plop them in a ziplock freezer bag. The plan is that I'll defrost a bag at a time in the fridge, rinse them in my colander, and devour. Mmmm.

Supposedly all berries are this easy to freeze. Wish all fruit was so labor-free.

arduous said...

Wow that's cool!!! I never knew it could be that simple!