But of course, The Farm!
A few weeks back Waits and I were invited along on a berry-picking adventure with another vegan family. I’d only been to a “u-pick” farm once before, many years ago, and so I was super excited to explore Bella Organics, one of the few organic u-pick farms in our area. I thought that it would be all about berries, and sun and fun, and hanging out with another vegan mama and watching our little rascals get rascally down in the berry fields.
Little did I know what I would discover out there . . .
The first time out we went straight for the marionberries. These suckers are hybrid blackberries that were developed right here at Oregon State University. They are huge, and they are juicy, and they are all sorts of delicious. Waits did less picking, and more munching.
As an aside, I’ve made it a habit of asking the farmers to charge me for an extra 1/4 pound of berries, which is probably really high but it makes me feel much better about the number of berries that find their way into my little buddy’s mouth. Probably a good tip for most parents!
It was awesome, the berries were awesome, and good times were had all around. But here’s the thing: at the front of the farm, where you pay for your haul, there’s this farm stand . . .
Cherries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Onions, Garlic, Kale, Collards, Taters, Broccoli, Beets, Heirloom Tomatoes, and on and on.
All from surrounding farms, all organic, and SO CHEAP! Seriously, like, insanely cheap. Organic kale in the stores around here is $2.99/bunch. At the FarMar it drops to $2.50/bunch, and the bunches tend to be bigger. But at the farm? $1.50 a bunch! That’s half the price of store bought kale!
I had no idea, and I certainly wasn’t prepared. So I grabbed what little I could, and I vowed to return as soon as possible. With a plan.
The following week we were back, with our same picking companions, hunting blueberries this time around. It was a gorgeous day on a gorgeous farm, and the blueberry fields were a long, lovely walk away.
It was a little early in the season though, and the munchkins kept plucking unripe hard green berries (and trying to eat them). So we scrapped the berry-picking pretty quickly. Which was fine, since we had other things in mind . . .
I had my sights set on broccoli. Amazing, organic, beautiful broccoli for $1.50 a head (not per pound, but per head, which was more than a pound apiece, easily). At that price? I wasn’t going to let that opportunity get away from me. I bought almost all of it!
See, just a few weeks earlier I had been out on a walk in my neighborhood, and had stumbled across an enormous stand-up freezer for sale. Just what I’d been wanting! I bought it on the spot, and Damian picked it up when he got home from work. A little re-organizing in the garage, a little scrubbing with vinegar, and it was up and running and ready to go. I am SO EXCITED at the new possibilities for food preservation. SO EXCITED I TELL YOU!
And the very first project was my broccoli. I washed it, trimmed it (juiced the stalks), and set it out on parchment paper to freeze.
This step prevents the produce from sticking together and freezing into one huge block. Very important!
Once it was frozen I transferred it to glass jars.
Those are each gallon jugs, which I’d picked up for a crazy discount ($1.50 apiece; I nabbed 15) when my beloved neighborhood produce market and herb shop went out of business recently. Two gallons – that’s a LOT of broccoli!
Now, I’ll continue to buy and eat fresh produce for the duration of summer and fall. But when winter rolls around, I’ll be able to dip into my freezer stash for local, organic fruits and vegetables. Eating local foods, and buying food that’s in season, is great for the environment and great for the local economy and really great for your wallet! I’m excited to share more of my preservation adventures, as the summer continues to unfold, and the bounty keeps on rolling in.