Saturday, May 2, 2009

Strawberry Fields

Oh yeah, I've been looking forward to this day since Miss Chef and I talked about it last weekend...strawberry picking!

Charlotte has an exceptional number of farms within a short driving distance, and there are all kinds of pick-your-own fruit places. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, goes on all summer. Last year we completely missed strawberry season. I'm not sure what Miss Chef's excuse was, but my excuse is I'm a Yankee. Back home, we didn't get into the height of strawberry season until June. Down here, it's been at least a week since the farms have been open.

So last weekend, we scheduled it. We had to; there are always so many things for us to rush around and do in our short time together, "big" events like these are always pushed back 'til next week. We sat down and decided to pick Saturday morning before Miss Chef had to go to work, and spend all day Sunday making jam and whatever else we could come up with.

Before heading off with our map in hand, however, we had a stop to make, of course: the farmers' market. (Well, duh!)

See that stuff on the right side of the board? Miss Chef makes those; the caramel is of course her own creation hatched in her creative/crazy little brain. When we stopped by to say hi to Michele around 8:30, she said she'd already sold two.

(Side story: While the three of us were chatting, I asked Michele, "Have you had all your kids already?" and Miss Chef was shocked--Michele's children are teenagers, so she had no idea why I was asking her that! Michele knew, though. And yes, her kidding season is definitely over.)

Okay, so we left the market and then headed off, map in hand to Springs Farm in Fort Mill, SC. Yup, we're less than 10 miles from the border, so we have no problem skipping into the next state. Local is local.

We bought our baskets--three gallons worth--at the market, then parked by the field and were assigned to our rows. The attendant directed us to start at the far end, which took a little bit of self-restraint, as we had to walk by all kinds of gorgeous, ripe berries just lying there!

Yum, yum! When we had picked up our baskets, and I saw how much empty space we had to fill, I said, "This may take longer than I expected." But the field was very clean, the berry plants poking up through black plastic, laying their luscious wares out for all to see. It was very easy, and the weather was perfect: warm, but overcast, so the sun wasn't beating down on our heads.

Miss Chef and I got to work, and almost before I knew it, my basket was full.

(This picture is now our desktop background; click on it to biggerize it, and you'll understand why!)

Miss Chef had the other two boxes, so I grabbed one to finish it off, carefully piling as many berries as I could, without them rolling off. I had to carry them back across the stony, lumpy field to the car, after all. I certainly didn't want to leave any lying in the row, and I had comic images of trying to pick up fallen strawberries as more dropped from my basket with every move.

Miss Chef was even more determined to get her full gallon's worth. She couldn't seem to stop! (She really loves strawberries...a lot.)

Finally, after a few halts on the way out, to pick the red, ripe few she just couldn't resist, we made it back to the car. Instead of my losing strawberries on the way back, I actually picked a few up that seemed to have fallen from somebody else's box. Good thing I left a little extra room on top, huh?

So, here's what we've got now...

...along with some red-stained fingers that, as Miss Chef said, made it look like we'd butchered a small animal. The camera also has a bright red smear across it as if we'd bludgeoned someone in the head with it. Should probably wipe that off...

So the strawberries are gonna hang out in the cooler overnight, until we get to processing them tomorrow. I'll be sure to take pictures of the results!

Oh, and you know what makes it even better? Chef Adam bought two gallons at the market for the restaurant for $15 each--even though Miss Chef had told him we could pick him some. He found it a little pricey, but I guess he wanted to maintain that relationship with the market. When we went to pick ours, we got three gallons for $7.50 each--half the price!

Miss Chef packed herself a little container of ours to take to work tonight, and told me she was going to eat them in front of Chef Adam saying, "half-price....mmmmm!"

They have a very special relationship.


  1. Oh I love fresh strawberries, and picking your own is so fulfilling.

    Are you saying Miss Chefs restaurant sells at the Farmers Market? Goat cheese truffles, wow.
    I always hear about how goats eat anything but mine don't. My theory is that those who eat anything are not receiving the nutrition that their bodies need.

    Mine won't take any treats I bring 'em. When they are out picking, they eat certain things and not others.

    When given hay, they pull out certain pieces and leave the other alone.

    My goats are very picky eaters. I suspect goats that eat anything are hungry and missing vitamins and minerals. Mine get pellets, sweet feed, hay, baking soda, minerals, and graze in a pasture.

  2. No, that's a side job she of two part-time jobs. She does keep herself busy!

  3. What a great post. I have done the U-pick strawberry thing in a coon's age, even though every summer I say I'm going to. Maybe this will be the year....

    Oh, and STOP teasing me with the goat cheese caramel.

  4. Way, wayyyy back when I was a kid in Florida, Mom used to take my sister and me to a farm where we picked our own strawberries. It's been years since I had a "real" strawberry!

  5. Oh wow! I've U-Picked at that same field! Not sure if you knew this but, my family lived in Rock Hill, SC for 7 yrs. My daughter was born there. I so so so miss all the fresh u-pick farms. We have a serious deficit of u-pick farms here in New Mexico.

    I love New Mexico like crazy, but I sometimes miss the green grass, lots of farms and gardens with fresh produce...and being so close to the ocean. Our favorite place to camp was Edisto Island...and Hunting Island, too.
    And lots of mini-vacations spent at beaches around Charleston. sigh.

    My hubby started a lacrosse team at Winthrop University. Such a beautiful campus.

    Summers spent boating on Lake Wylie. We only lived about 2 miles away. I miss my friends the most, though.

    Oh. But I don't miss the 'palmetto bugs' and killer mosquitos. And humidity. (Agh!)

    Have a great weekend and enjoy those strawberries. My kids favorite way to eat them was pulled straight out of the freezer, like strawberry-pops. lol!
    I never had enough left over to make jams or jellies either.

  6. That really takes me back! When I was a young child, my grandmother took us blueberry picking and we had so much fun. We ate and ate and ate and ate, came home with black lips and purple teeth and maybe a couple pints of actual picked berries. It was such a delight to me, and reading your post brought those happy memories back. My sweet grandmother has been gone for over 21 years, so remembering her in this was was an unexpected treat for me today. Thanks Flar.


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