Berry Daze

The Fourth of July weekend brought beautiful weather for camping up the McKenzie River.  Everything is late this year, including the mountain wildflowers.  The meadows were carpeted with little pale blue flowers and deep blue larkspur, with paintbrush adding accent.

Arriving home, the berries and peas needed picking.  The strawberries are just about done, but there are still a few and they are nice and sweet with the arrival of warm weather.  The raspberries are nearing peak. Snow peas are about done, but the sugar snaps are still providing abundant snacks.  The garden likes the sun!

I like to sample the fare as I pick.  I try to only put the best berries in the basket, and eat the others.  This serves to continuously optimize the quality control!  Did you know that the reddest strawberries are not as sweet as the orange ones?  At least that’s true with my Hood berries.  With raspberries, the dark ones that just about fall off the stem are the best.  Judging the quality of the marginally overripe fruit is where taste testing can make the most difference.   Picking clean perfect fruit also has the advantage that you can often dispense with further handling before freezing, jamming or serving.

Even picking peas can benefit from eating a few as you pick.  You are after that optimum point where the peas are large enough, and contain enough sugar to make the whole pod sweet – but before seeds get large and begin to turn bitter.  Keep sampling when you harvest and you will be able to serve up perfection!

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