What is it about foraging for wild crops that sends us into another place and time? Feeling connected, balanced, in harmony with nature.
Nancy J. Turner, an ethnobiologist quoted in The Fruit Hunters, speculates that it ‘satisfies some instinctive yearning left over from man’s evolutionary past when this occupation was essential for survival.’
Wisconsin summers meant looking forward the annual Workman strawberry picking event. As a child we’d drive into Mequon and go to Stauss Farm. Sadly they stopped growing strawberries for u-pick a few years ago, so we switched allegiences and have enjoyed picking at Basses in Colgate ever since.
Strawberry picking in our family is an all-out event. Stained fingers and faces are inevitable from all the picking and snitching. At the peak of ripeness, the urge to snack on a few right there in the field is impossible to resist. Our eyes ever bigger than our stomachs for fresh fruit, we come home with more flats than we know what to do with.
The majority are frozen on cookie sheets, then poured into gallon Ziploc bags for ‘fresh’ strawberries year-round. In the next few days, we end up gorging on the remainder of the strawberries before they go bad. Strawberry shortcake, strawberry crepes, strawberry freezer jam, strawberry pie, strawberries on ice cream, strawberry lemon cookies [a creation of my sister’s last summer] and simple handfuls anytime we pass through the kitchen.
Autumn in Wisconsin brings the promise of apple picking. During college my sister found the greatest little place in Pipe called The Little Farmer A tractor wagon hauls you off to the orchards, tote in hand. After climbing your trees for the choicest Cortlands [eating a couple along the way], the bags are brimming with shiny red apples. No trip is complete without a caramel apple!
As the summer rolls by and Autumn looms closer, I become more and more nostalgic for the little things I so used to look forward to at home. I love nothing more than being outdoors – strolling in the morning to witness the world wake up, enjoying a picnic on the soft grass, eating supper al fresco on the patio or lying on a blanket staring at the stars.
Southeast Texas is unforgiving. The sun is constant, the humidity so thick you can see it, nonexistent rain, whipping wind, and a heat so intense you can scarcely spend more than twenty minutes outdoors. I’m trying very hard to see our new home state ‘with different eyes’ [and not to utter audible sighs every time the wind blows my hair around as if I were in a tornado], but change is never easy. I think I need to roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty, and discover what’s great about southeast Texas.