Make Like a Forager and Pick Your Own
Get outta town (or, stealthily climb your neighbor's tree).
August 5, 2017
By Cassandra Landry | Image iStock and Derek Salvatore
To me, summer will always be about blackberries.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fiend for stone fruits and strawberries and blueberries and cherries and watermelon. But blackberries crowded the sidewalks and spilled over the backyard fences of my childhood, so blackberries it has to be. I like their elusive attitude: they make you wait until the dead of August, and then reward you with that musky, deep sweetness with a tart bite, to be unleashed in a heady spree of pies.
Wading into a patch of those thorny bastards and emerging with purple-stained fingers and a slightly-less-full-than-maybe-it-should-be bucket of fruit is as childlike a pleasure as they come. I even love the careful way you have to pick an especially ripe berry, with a loose kind of claw, before you inspect the hollow chamber for spiders. A friend once described the way her mother would screech the car to a stop whenever she spotted a tree, heavy with loquats and ignored by the neighborhood, cawing with their good fortune; that's the way I feel when I see a forgotten stretch of park lined with blackberry bushes on a hot day, lawn mowers whining in the distance.
Chefs who forage are no stranger to the satisfaction of this kind of spontaneous harvest. When it's nice out, skip the grocery store and go pluck your fruit straight from the stem—it tastes better when it's all jammy and warm from the sun. (It's not even a contest.) Scour your neighborhood, or hit up a U-Pick day at a local farm.
California: If you're up in North, swing by Swanton Berry Farm for strawberries and olallieberries; down South, try McGrath Family Farm. | Oregon: If stone fruit is your shit, TK Orchards has fabulous U-Pick days for peaches and nectarines. If blueberries are more your speed, Blueberry Hill Farm is as idyllic as they come. | New York: Peaches are a proven salve for the MTA. Seriously. If you can escape the city, hit up Fishkill Farms and remember a good thing about summer. | Texas: We love Sweet Berry Farm, just outside of Austin, for its strawberry and blackberry bounty.