Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

It’s berry pickin’ time in Minnesota June 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:02 AM
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Berry picking at Straight River Farm near Faribault started two weeks ago and is expected to continue for awhile yet. Yes, berries are about two weeks earlier than normal this year in Minnesota. And, yes, Straight River is open weekdays. Call before driving out to the farm which is located in a peaceful country setting along the Straight River.

JUNE WOULD NOT BE JUNE without berry picking.

So on a recent Saturday morning my husband and I slipped into tattered jeans and worn t-shirts, laced our tennis shoes and grabbed caps as we headed out to pick strawberries at Straight River Farm east of Faribault.

Picking berries at Straight River Farm on a Saturday morning.

About 1 ½ hours later we’d harvested 21 pounds of fruit. We most definitely had to work for what we got. The berries really needed another day or two of sunshine. But we’ve come to expect that; all the berries cannot possibly ripen at the same time.

We usually have a competition to see who picks the most strawberries. This year we tied and picked a total of 21 pounds. See that fold-up garden kneeler in the right corner. I find picking much easier when I use that. But then I have an artificial right hip and I need to be careful how I bend and manipulate my body.

After dropping our two boxes of berries off at home, we took in the Faribault Heritage Days Soap Box Derby trial run and a garage sale before eating lunch and then getting down to the task of cleaning and bagging the strawberries.

My husband and I worked as a team to prepare the berries for freezing.

Plucking berries is the easy part. I’d rather creep between rows, back bent to the sky, than stand in the kitchen for hours washing, hulling, slicing and finally bagging berries. I’d rather chat with other berry pickers—including the young family next to us and the Florida retiree recently returned to his native Minnesota—than shut myself away in the kitchen on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

But such is the destiny of the berry picker.

I sliced and froze 13 three-cup bags of strawberries, no sugar added. I also saved some for eating fresh.

A shipped-in, store-bought strawberry can never match the taste of a fresh Minnesota berry, like those pictured here in this file photo of Straight River Farm berries.

FYI: We’ve been picking berries at Straight River Farm, 3733 220th Street East, Faribault, for years. To learn more about this multi-fruit and vegetable farm, click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling