Can the stew, pick berries

By Web Master

By: JACLYN RINK

Contributing Reporter      

The spring and summer months in Michigan give residents reason to throw off their winter sweaters and slip into a swimsuit. With the weather also comes a change in appetite, as Michiganders exchange heavy winter foods for something a bit lighter.

But forget about heading to the local supermarket.  With some of the freshest fruits coming into season, U-pick farms are a healthy, summer fun activity. With over 255 farms across the state of Michigan, various types of berries, cherries and peaches are grown in abundance for the public to enjoy.

U-pick farms allow customers to enjoy pick the fruit themselves, providing a hands-on experience for the entire family. Most are family-owned businesses that also sell their fruits in already picked bundles for those who just want the freshest produce in town.  Different farms vary in fruit selection and open during the prime months for their specific produce, but most open to the public starting in late June.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture suggests the best fruits to pick in the spring and summer months including strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, and peaches, all which have health benefits of high folate, fiber, magnesium and vitamins A and C. According to a study done at the University of Michigan, Michigan is the number one state in highbush blueberry production with 20 different varieties growing in the Southwest region near Lake Michigan.

Oakland County has a variety of farms for U-Pick adventurers. Check out Erwin Orchard U-Pick and Cider Mill in South Lyon which has been open since 1920 and is known for its 14 varieties of apples and sweet cherries. Park-U-Pick Raspberry Farm in South Lyon offers the freshest raspberries for picking in August. For the organic food lovers, Beckwith’s Berries and Blooms in Leonard offers certified organic raspberries.

To find the farm closest to you visit the Michigan Department of Agriculture at http://www.michigan.gov  for a search engine and complete listing of farms.

You don’t need to be a farmer to pick the most delicious fruits out of the bunch. Selecting the perfect produce is easy and fun. Produce for Better Health Foundation says berries should be firm, bright in color and still have their stems or leaves attached. Avoid bruises and weepy looking fruit. Farmers advise pickers not to wash fruit until they are ready to eat it, since washing early promotes decay. Cherries are the longest lasting fruit and can be kept for up to ten days at room temperature. But most berries need to be eaten within two to three days of being picked. 

For more tips on how to pick and store the right produce visit http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org 

So put away your sweater and save that thick stew for winter. Pick yourself a bowl of fruit and let the fun begin.