Every summer, I am struck by the sheer wealth of food that comes from this province. After a cold and seemingly endless winter followed by a sluggish spring, the summer comes bearing gifts of sweet golden corn, succulent berries, the tenderest peaches you have ever bitten into, and just about everything else under the sun that makes your heart sing… at least, it does for me.
But a summer isn’t complete unless I’ve done all of the following:
- Lazily day-tripped along county roads, looking for roadside produce stands and garage sales - check!
- Slept to the soft, still quiet of the woods, away from cars and their kin -check!
- Fished and enjoyed a meal out of it – check!
- Perused a farmers’ market, barely able to contain my dreams about what I’ll cook/bake/can when I get home –check!
- Gardened enough to eat a hearty, fulsome meal or two – incomplete (My container garden really contained its excitement this year)
- Pickled and jammed fresh Ontario produce – incomplete (I’m thinking peaches and pickles this year)
- Gone fruit picking for any type of local deliciousness – check!
Last week I checked one more item off my list—fruit picking—by lending a hand to fellow staffer, Megan Hunter. Megan sought several cups of fresh blueberries to make blueberry balsamic black pepper preserve, which would later serve as wedding favours to her esteemed guests. Beyond being delicious, blueberries are packed with health benefits.
At Andrew’s Scenic Acres in Milton/Halton Hills, the bushes were flooded with fruit that fell into our open palms after a gentle roll or two. The soft, full berries had cloudy coats, or bloom, on their skins (an indication of freshness, this natural substance acts as a barrier against insects and bacteria) and were big and sweet. I should know… I did a taste test.
Blueberries rely on insects, primarily bees, for pollination. Some blueberry bushes require cross-pollination--meaning that in order for pollination to occur, the pollen delivered to the flower must be from different plant. This is particularly true if your variety of blueberry bush is a hybrid. Did you know, one half of all hybrid plants were bred and introduced by the University of Minnesota?
It didn’t take long for our team of five to easily fill six or seven baskets full. It was such an easy and enjoyable activity, I was not surprised to find myself in the company of several families… families that chatted, playfully teased, and even sang while they picked. I can imagine at the end of the day that we all had our fill of blueberries. I can also imagine that the next day we would all be eating them by the dozen again, while Megan and company went about the long but fruitful process of making preserves.
Tender fruit season doesn’t last forever in Ontario (indeed, the months are all too fleeting) so I’m going to give you, reader, some advice: If you haven’t gone out into the Greenbelt yet, make a plan to. With blueberries, apples, apricots, currants, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, and gooseberries still in season, there is plenty to pick from. Try visiting Greenbeltfresh.ca to help plan your next pick-your-own adventure.
- Jenny Chan, Communications Assistant