Berry picking is a favorite pastime of many Long Islanders. Who cannot recall a day out to the East End of Long Island, where strawberries were picked until the tips of one’s fingers were stained pink and sticky to the touch? That wonderful flavor of sweetness as it glided over the palate was one of early summer’s greatest joys.
We often took our daughter to Schmidt’s Farms in her younger years for strawberries. Her eyes shone with glee as she ambled through the rows of short emerald plants, her fingers and lips stained a soft crimson. We brought our bounty home for countless desserts like shortcake, strawberry pancakes and sliced berries with whipped cream.
Blueberry season, which arrives in July, has always been one of our favorite times of the year. For years, we made a pilgrimage each summer to Paupack Blueberry Farm in the Poconos to pick as many blueberries as our containers could hold. We often held the container for our young daughter, who often spilled more than she could carry, much to her dismay. Raspberries and blackberries also grew at the farm, which we picked and ate until our bellies were full.
For several summers, we were unable to make the trek to the Poconos due to time constraints with our girl working through the season. We happened upon Patty’s Berries and Bunches, a U-pick farm out in Mattituck that originally opened in 1975 as Harbes Berry Farm. It changed names in 2010 when owner Patty DiVello, who is also a member of the Harbes family, personalized the farm.
We found strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries that were available for picking at the farm. We were shielded from most insects and birds by a netting that was draped over the plants for protection and preservation. The experience was fun for all of us, especially since it was closer to home and allowed us to make it a day-trip event, rather than tying up an entire weekend in Pennsylvania.
One of the best traditions that my daughter and I share is our love for mulberry picking in late spring each year. Several mulberry trees and bushes can be found throughout our Hicksville neighborhood, which always means that there are plenty of berries to be had for pies, tarts, jams and even mulberry wine. Nothing beats the taste of a freshly picked mulberry, although I would like to offer fair warning: Wear older clothing and shoes that you do not mind getting stained, because the red mulberries will stain everything that they touch. Last year, I created a tie-dyed tee shirt out of mulberry juice, which gave the white jersey a beautiful purple hue.
This morning, Hubby and I had yearly physicals scheduled with our physician. As we drove into the parking lot, we noticed a beautiful Oriole who had made his breakfast in a large tree that draped over the asphalt. As I looked to the ground, I noticed hundreds of plump white mulberries that had fallen from the low-lying branches. Mulberry season was here.
I quickly shot my daughter a text to advise her that the short season was upon us, to find out whether she would have time to pick berries with us this year. Her response was a resounding “YAY!,” which means that within the next few days, she will be here to share in the priceless tradition of collecting berries. Hubby is our expert picker, although he does not care for the seeds found in most berries. We intend to make it a family affair, just as we have done all these years.
While we might not get to the Poconos this summer for blueberries, mulberry picking is the next best thing. It does not cost a thing, we can get a good walk out of the deal and it strengthens the bonds of our family. It is something for which I am grateful. I am also looking for a recipe for that mulberry wine.
If you are looking for something fun to do with your family, please consider a visit to Patty’s Berries and Bunches. If you are looking for strawberries, Albert Schmitt Family Farm on Bagatelle Road in Dix Hills is another great option. Lewin Farm in Calverton or Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue are also wonderful choices. Berries are loaded with antioxidants and they are high in fiber. Berries provide many nutrients while also being low in calories. Picking berries with your family and friends can be a fun and can get kids to connect with their food. Whether you eat them fresh or in a pie, berry picking and berry eating are some of summertime’s greatest joys. Happy picking.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.