Dispatches from the Berry Patch

RASPBERRIES

FLOWERSSince the first week of June, I’ve set out in the morning every weekend with an empty canvas bag and come home hot and tired with several pounds of produce and containers filled with herbs, berries, and flowers. Over these past few months, I’ve feasted on kohlrabi, baby bok choy, mini-melons, greens of all kinds, potatoes, cucumbers, and a variety of summer squashes that look like an alien might use one to escape back to its home planet.

In other words: I’ve jumped on the ultimate Western Mass bandwagon and joined a farm-share.

SNOW PEASEver since I first moved here, I’d heard whispers of such an arrangement: one in which participants pay a monthly fee in exchange for weekly pick-ups of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables. I had suffered for so long with supermarket produce–constantly trying to dig my way through sad lettuce and peppers without much success–that I took to the idea immediately. I worried about the cost, naturally, but luckily the many community-supported agriculture programs in the area have low-income options to fit most budgets. (At the same time, those who can afford to pay more are encouraged to contribute above the base level to assist those in need–a pretty cool idea, if it actually works!)

So far, my farm-share experience has exceeded my expectations beyond belief. Even after I’ve stuffed my bag with whatever’s ready for picking that week (tomatoes? kale? little carrots? There’s something new every time!), I still have the option to gather herbs, fruit, green beans, and other small harvestables from the pick-your-own gardens. I’m aware that the effort I put into harvesting once a week is nothing compared to that which the farmers do every day, but there’s something very satisfying about bringing home food that I know I worked (a little bit) to obtain.

DSC_0385After a few weeks of emerging from the raspberry patch with the telltale scraped arms and reddened lips of an amateur berry hunter, I was sad to see that the season has now almost ended. At the height of the harvest, I could fill up a pint of these little gems in under twenty minutes; this week, it took twice as long just to cover the bottom of my container.

I’ve never felt so like a child in some magical story than while losing myself back in this wild area of the farm. It reminds me, of course, of Yeats–words that I memorized from some great anthology as a kid, and have never quite managed to forget:

There we’ve hid our fairy vats

Full of berries,

And of reddest stolen cherries.

Come away, o human child!

To the woods and waters wild…

PLANTS TO EDIT 1One of my favorite parts of each visit is catching a glimpse of what’s growing in the greenhouses. On my most recent stroll back from the berry patch, I happened to pass by this collection of tomatoes-in-progress: hopefully some of them will end up in my kitchen in the weeks to come!

FARMHOUSE

Some CSA farms in the Pioneer Valley to check out, if that’s your thing: 

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