One of the things I look forward to every summer is heading out to the local farms to pick berries. There are a couple of great farms in Southern CT that are not over run with the NY crowd, and I will share them with you if you promise not to tell too many others…
The season always begins in mid-June with strawberries. Fresh strawberries taste nothing like the things that are available from the market. They are ridiculously sweet and so juicy that you inevitably wipe your chin with the back of your arm. My favorite place for this delicious harvest is the Jones Family Farm in Shelton, CT. Once at the farm, you take a "Berry Ferry" (really a flatbed truck- we rode the Queen Berry II today) out to the fields, and if you don't mind a little bending at the knees, you are ready to pick.
Strawberries are not the easiest fruit to pick as they grow low to the ground and like to “hide” under their leaves. The sweetest berry is generally shaded from the heat of the sun under one of its large green leaves. The best way to find these little red gems is to gently lift up some of the green leaves. To pick a berry, pinch the stem about 2 inches up from the fruit until it snaps off. There is nothing sweeter than eating a freshly picked berry that is still warm from the sun.
In mid-July come the blueberries. They are much easier to pick as the bushes grow to 7 feet high. For blueberries, we venture out to Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. It’s just north of New Haven and worth the drive. It is a beautiful drive in the lush countryside and the farm is set on acre after acre of rolling hillside. I always end up humming John Denver’s Country Road song while driving there.
When picking blueberries at Lyman Orchards, you are given a berry basket that is essentially a basket with string tied around it that you wear over you neck so both of your hands are free for picking. Once you have your basket you can roam freely throughout the blueberry bushes. The only challenge is saving some to bring home!
Other tasty attractions at the Lyman Orchards are the over 30 varieties of apples, peaches and even Asian Pears that sell far below standard market prices, and the wonderful corn labyrinth for kids. Lymans also offers a handy harvesting calendar for the Summer/Fall season.
Here is a great recipe from the Jones Family Farm:
Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake
Richer than a biscuit, but not quite as sweet as cake, this is a genuine "short" cake.
1 quart fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar 1-1/2 cup flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil or softened butter
1/2 cup milk
- Slice berries into a large bowl; Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar. Let set, while juice forms. Save a few perfect whole berries for garnish.
- Stir the flour and baking powder together, set aside.
- Mix the sugar and oil until smooth and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, then add the dry ingredients and milk. Beat well.
- Pour into 2 greased cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
- When ready to serve, layer shortcake and berries, and cover top with real whipped cream (as much as your diet allows:) Garnish with whole berries.
Jones Family Farms: 555 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton.
Lyman Orchards: Located at the Junction of Routes 147 & 157, Middlefield.