Looking for cheap, outdoorsy fun? Head to local u-pick farms for fresh fruit picking dates with the apple of your eye. This flavorful date activity is great in and of itself but, for an added cherry on top, use your fresh fruit to harvest even more date night fun, such as incorporating pickings into a date night cheese plate, cooking a meal together with your bounty or, for a sweet treat, adding fruit pickings to a DIY sundae station.
Here are four tips for a berry merry u-pick date:
Get a Taste of Where and When to Pick
PickYourOwn.org is a great resource that provides listings of u-pick farms located all over the country, in addition to recipes, food events and much more. It also contains a crop calendar of both fruit and vegetables so you can plan upcoming u-pick dates for each season which, of course, varies per region. This summer, for example, Floridians can pick berries, cherries and peaches; Texans can pick apples and plums; Californians can pick apricots and strawberries; and New Yorkers can pick pears.
Most farms provide containers for fruit collection and encourage sampling as you pick. Besides satisfying your hunger, noshing along the way can help as some fruit bushes produce different flavor varieties. Consider bringing snacks, water, sunscreen, hats, handi-wipes and cash as some farms do not accept credit cards. It’s best to wear sturdy shoes and clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty. On a hot day, pack a cooler to transport fruit, especially if you are not going straight home after picking. Restrooms may not be available or limited to port-o-lets at some farms, so consider taking a bathroom break before arrival.
Added Farm Fun
Many farms have a snack shack to buy pre-picked fruit, other fresh produce, local honey and an array of refreshments. You may also find tractor rides, a fire pit to roast hot dogs or s’mores, gaming areas and onsite wineries. For example, Oak Haven Farms and Winery near Orlando, Florida is a u-pick strawberry farm, vineyard and onsite winery that offers homemade strawberry shortcake, milk shakes, other farm fresh inspired yumminess and free wine tastings.
Enjoying Your Harvest
To protect your bounty, plan to process the fruit as instructed by the farmer as soon as possible. For blueberries, for example, wash them in a colander, weeding out any debris or damaged berries. Pour berries onto a towel to gently pat dry; then store in the refrigerator for about a week. Berries freeze best when poured in a single layer on a large baking sheet and placed in the freezer until frozen; then, store them in quart-sized bags for up to a year.
Berries are very versatile. Sure, you can toss into pancakes, baked goods or top ice cream and yogurt; but don’t forget to use berries in chutneys to top savory meats, in salads or even on pizzas with prosciutto, arugula and cheese.
Nancy DeVault is the managing editor of Date Night Guide and a contributor to publications such as Babble, AmeriDisability Services Magazine and Orlando Magazine. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and toddler.