being born and raised in the heart of the berkshires, picking fruit was pretty much considered a right of passage……when i was a tiny girl, i remember being carted by my grandparents and elders to the picking sites, and playing while they picked, eating as many berries as my little stomach could hold….as i grew into a child, i was allowed to follow behind my uncles and great uncles, as they ventured through forests and fields, searching out their favorite ‘secret’ spots to gather the fruits,teaching you as they went how and what to pick….you knew you were a really big kid when you were permitted to add your pickings to the mass that would go back home to preserve or make into wonderful delights….when i was a young adult, i boldly went into the wilds to find the most desirable berry patches and abandoned orchards, my only competition being the bears and birds…..now that i am a mom, nothing makes me prouder than to look over and see my kids picking beside me, knowing that they are competent and knowledgeable , continuing a tradition gifted to them by ancestors whose spirits still fill the fields we pick in….
the berkshires are abundant with both berries and tree fruits….i grew up picking strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black capped raspberries, blackberries, peaches, pears, grapes, crabapples, apples, and the occasional gathering of elderberries and other fruits whose names now slip my mind. the berries were always my favorite to pick, the most rewarding because you had to be selective and diligent to get the tastiest fruits…..strawberries which can be found growing wild in fields, or picked in farm fields, brought the biggest taste of summer and made the most delicious desserts…..my grandmothers land contained all of the blackberries that my buckets could hold, and their seediness and juiciness was determined by the amount of rain that fell that year…raspberries grew right out my back door, where i could run and grab a bowlful and hurry back home to pour sugar and milk on top of them and enjoy on the spot…..blueberries are a territorial thing in these parts, as everyone has their spot that has ‘the absolute best’ blueberries….i myself, think the best blueberries in the world come from the tops of washington and october mountains, in washington, but because it is a huge field in the middle of the woods, i tend not to go there anymore, because i don’t want to be a mama chasing a bear away from her kids, so now i go to a farm in becket that is still in a field, but near to the road and houses….peaches come to the berkshire,just as the heat of summer is setting in, filling the peaches with a goodness that has no words fitting enough to describe its delight…..picking peaches is not that eventful, as most peach trees are overloaded with fruits, so your total picking time is about 20 minutes, unless you stop to eat a dozen or two : ) ……. apples are probably the most quintessential fruit to these parts, and picking them is a family tradition that almost everyone partakes in…..there are several farms that make it a fun adventure for families, with easy picking and several varieties to choose…..
now that i am older, i am much more concerned about how my fruit was grown, than i did as a child…..i try to seek out organic farms, and when they are not available or convenient to my hurried life, i go to other farms that use integrated pest management, which is also healthier than conventionally grown fruits….some farms are not very accepting of children picking, especially the strawberry farms(because of their fragile growing conditions), so i will usually look for ones that are child friendly….though,i still slip out without the kids for some of my outings, so i can go to my favorite spots in the woods, and spend time with friends….
regardless of what fruit i am picking, i find that it brings me peace and solitude, and rejuvenates my soul….when the berkshires are buried under blankets of white snow, with winter winds whipping, i am dreaming of the first fruits of summer, and when summer is here and picking is ready, there will always be one berkshiregirl with her bucket at the ready…..
Tags: berkshire county, berkshires, berries, fruit, orchards