Step 1 - Picking Your Fruit
I remember as a child, going berry picking with my grandparents. We'd load up in the farm truck, buckets, bug spray and a lunch Grandma had packed, Grandpa's gun in the back window, and head down to the hills of the Peace River for some berry picking. We had a "special place" they liked to go. Before the popularity and necessity of sunscreen, we'd usually return home with bug bites, sunburn and a few buckets full of saskatoons. Being out with my grandparents was always fun, but I sure didn't like picking berries. Not a fan of saskatoons, I would usually find myself a spot and stay there all day, dreaming and swatting the mosquitoes, probably whining about wanting to go home.
Fast forward 30 years and here I am, an avid berry picker. I LOVE IT! Maybe just a chance to relive times with my grandparents, maybe because I am happy to have an abundance of natural and healthy food to feed my own family. As my grandparents and parents did to me and my sister, I now pack up my kids as well and make them come picking. I still hate cleaning the berries once I bring them home. A tedious job as my OCD kicks in high gear. Never a leaf, bug or spoiled fruit would be found in my cleaned berries!
But, where do you find fruit?
If you don't have the great advantage of owning property that has wild fruit bushes, you'll need to find someone who is willing to let you onto their property. Edge of roads and on the hill sides are great areas where saskatoons can be found in our area. But remember, some of these places could be privately owned. Always ask for permission before entering on private property. Chokecherry trees can be found on the banks of the Peace River and Beatton River hills. Patches of wild raspberries, wild strawberries, wild blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, rosehips and other edibles can be found all over the Peace area. Ask around. (PS - I would love it if someone would share their huckleberry patch with me!) Crabapples can be found in lots of backyards in most of the older homes in Fort St. John. There are cherry trees planted at the Pomeroy Sports Centre. If you have a fruit tree, don't want to use the fruit, don't want to clean up the fruit on the ground and have it go to waste - think about letting people come pick it! Leave your name at our shop and I will pass it along to those looking for extra fruit. There are a few u-pick places around as well: I know there's a saskatoon u-pick in the Grandhaven/Charlie Lake area somewhere, there's a farm up the highway that has haskaps available, and there's the market gardens at Dunvegan, AB for strawberries.
Click HERE for a great reference on wild berries in BC. Find out what's safe to eat!
Checklist for berry picking:
1) Bug spray
2) Sunscreen/large brimmed hat/shirt with long sleeves (older one so stains don't matter)
3) Buckets - I usually take 1 large and 1 small. Pick with the small and empty it into the large.
4) Music player/partner/dog/bear spray (make noise - remember you're in bear habitat)
5) Good shoes, especially if you are picking along the river hills. Hard to walk the hills in flip-flops!
7) If you're driving, make sure you have lots of gas and let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back. (Don't ask how I know this!)
8) Check the weather. You'd hate to get to the berry patch just to find out that it's going to rain and you're unprepared to pick in a downpour.
9) Baby wipes (great for getting sticky juice off your fingers, or mouth. LOL)
10) Enjoy the time in the fresh air, surrounded by nature!
Don't have the time to pick? Check out the different fruit trucks in the area. Since you want ripe fruit for Country Fruit Wines, ask if they have any overripe fruit at a discount. Make sure you check it over. Spoiled or rotten fruit cannot be used to make good wine. Check the grocery store for sales in the produce or freezer sections. We've made many batches of great wine from Costco frozen fruit too!
Next Post: Cleaning and getting your fruit ready for wine making