• Rachel Anne Baer

Strawberry Picking During a Pandemic

#strawberrypicking #summerfun #summer2020 #covid19 #findingnormalinapandemic #familytraditions

This morning I went strawberry picking, a fun summer activity that I look forward to every year. Strawberry season is short, there is nothing quite like the taste of freshly picked local strawberries and the satisfaction that comes from seeing the full box of beautiful sweet juicy red berries just waiting to be enjoyed.

This year was more than a little different, it's June 2020, the year the world is still experiencing a pandemic from the now well known virus Covid19. I am so impressed at the dedication and hard work our local farm stand has gone to in keeping it's business running. I can't imagine how much extra work they have had to go to, putting all of their inventory online, including the pick your own strawberries.

Two days earlier I had checked their website, and the weather forecast as we needed to book a date and time slot online, pay in advance, print our ticket or show it from a text message, then show up at the allotted time ready to move swiftly between the strawberry plants to complete our picking within the alotted twenty-five minutes.

I knew I wanted to pick a large container of strawberries, as I like to make plenty of strawberry jam to enjoy through the year and to give as gifts. there's something very satisfying about preparing, making and then seeing the results of your picking & chopping displayed on a shelf with other similar items also made this year during extra creative time due to quarantine.

My husband was a good sport as he knows how much I enjoy strawberry picking, I wasn't sure how I could possibly pick a large amount of fruit in just that short amount of time. He offered to come with me to help, between us we would hopefully be able to fill that basket quickly. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and a little chilly at 8.30 am when we left home. We arrived ten minutes early, a few other cars were already in the lot. We greeted the staff cheerfully, our ticket was scanned, the required hand sanitizer used, masks on, basket acquired and off we went on a short walk to the strawberry fields.

This field was full of first year plants, which apparently means that they are super abundant. Wow! the picking was amazing, this must have been the easiest year I can remember to pick these delicious berries. We didn't have to walk far, beautiful red berries wherever we looked. We stayed fairly close to each other as we were sharing a basket (no personal containers allowed this year) it didn't take long for the basket to brim with summer goodness. Soon we had piled as many berries as possible into the container without spilling any onto the ground and off we went. Between us it had taken just under twenty minutes, we had moved quickly but not rushed, not the usual slow relaxed pace I prefer to go at on this annual activity but it was still enjoyable and I am so grateful to my husband for keeping me company and helping out, he knows especially how much I dislike being out with fellow mask wearers as I find it really unnerving not being able to see people's faces and expressions.

As we wandered slowly back to the car, looking down at our fingers stained red and smelling of fresh strawberries we reminisced about our childhood memories of this fun summer activity. I remember going with my parents, a family affair, myself and younger brothers were probably wearing our cute brightly colored wellies (Wellington boots) and dressed in old cloths incase of getting muddy and stained in strawberry juice, which was inevitable. Although our parents tried to remind us not to eat any straight from the bushes, I am sure that we ate almost as many as we put in our own little punnets. The proof was in not just our stained red fingers but also in the bright red staining around our mouths, there was no denying where some of the berries had disappeared to.

I remember my parents spending hours over a hot stove, preparing and boiling down strawberries to make jam and some were sliced to freeze to enjoy over the winter. They would make far more jam than I do, probably because it really did need to keep them going until the following summer season rather than present day when it is relatively easy to find fresh fruit and any type of preserves during the cold winter months. I don't remember them canning the jam though as I do today, they would put a small wax circle on top of the filled jars as a seal, then tightly secure a circle of thick cling film type material over top securing it with an elastic band. As the jam cooled the middles of the plastic covers would dip down, much like the popping down of the metal lids on my Mason jars this morning. I remember the open windows to alleviate the heat in the kitchen from the boiling jam and the wasps buzzing in and around, my dad swatting at them and eventually admitting defeat and closing the windows to be enveloped in the heat in the kitchen. Here in the US we have the benefit of scenes on all the windows and are able to leave them open without the invasion of hungry wasps.

I remember the busy delicious smells from the kitchen during jam making time, there would be bowls of fresh strawberries to eat at anytime we wanted, much like I have replicated in my own life for my family over the years. It seems we draw comfort from these family traditions and yearly rituals. It wouldn't feel like a real summer without strawberry picking and the creative jam and baking sessions that follow. I have already found a new strawberry cheesecake ice cream recipe to try out along with last years find of strawberry cake with the most amazing strawberry sauce (strawberries placed in a blender) although the recipe calls for added sugar you don't need it, fresh local fruit has enough of it's own sweetness.

Such a simple activity brought me so much pleasure and even more so with the fun memories from my childhood. I will leave this for now and go to enjoy a large bowl of fresh yumminess along with a small slice of flourless chocolate cake I made earlier today. If you have the opportunity to pick strawberries this year I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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