I’m not messin’ around. Not even a little.
By Abbe Aronson
By the time you’ve read this, I’ll have exhausted my friends’ and family’s good will and company when it comes to asparagus, and for that matter, most likely have pushed the limits when it comes to strawberries. You’re just intime to jump on the bandwagon with blueberries and blackberries alongside me, so come on in, the water’s fine.
I’m talking about one of my favorite obsessions when it comes to life in the mountains—the pick-your-own farm. Addictive in the best way, fun for nearly everyone who’s willing to stoop or bend, pluck and pick, pick-your-own fruit and veggie season begins in my corner of the Hudson Valley in early spring and runs through the fall—don’t even get me started on apple picking. For me, the locale of choice is Greig Farm in Red Hook, NY, in continuous operation since the 1940s.
What I love about pick-your-own is…well, everything. For one, the perennial New York City slicker in me is still agog every time I get to grab a piece of fruit from a tree when vacationing, and since moving to my mountainside town just outside of Woodstock full-time in 2005, I get an enormous thrill at the idea of selecting my food at its source. For another, pick-your-own is all about possibilities. “What am I planning on doing with x pounds of this?” and if you’re an overachieving home cook like me, possibilities are like foreplay…the more, the better.
With asparagus season, we like to “roast-’til-crispy” as many tender stalks as possible, but then there’s always pickling, quick sautéing the tips with pastas, puréeing whole for soups hot and cold and loading up omelets. With strawberries, besides the no-brainer shortcake, there’s ice cream to be topped, drinks to be garnished, whole fruits to be dehydrated and enjoyed in distinctly non-strawberry season (believe me when I tell you that a handful of dehydrated strawberries sprinkled on top of oatmeal in the middle of winter is a game-changer) and of course, in the dog days of summer, an ice-cold bowl of strawberries with freshly whipped cream is really all you need to make any meal magical.
But again, the bounty aside, it’s the whole idea of pick-your-own that’s romantic and fantastical to me. It’s endlessly affordable, so you and you alone decide how crazy you wanna get in the field. Greig Farm, like almost all our local options, is plain ol’ gorgeous and a great place to glimpse those skies everyone’s been painting for decades. Bought yourself a big sun hat and wondering when you’ll wear it? Here’s your chance. Breaking in your new Wellies? Yup, you’ve come to the right place.
Asparagus in early spring is spectacular because for many people, it’s the first time they’ve gotten to dig in the dirt since the former season and it’s…life-affirming.
Berry season? You’ve got the bees buzzing and that smell. That. Smell. That, combined with a field full of happy kids smeared in berry juices and everyone licking their fingers? Well, that’s summer in a nutshell.
Looking ahead to fall, don’t sell apple or pear picking season short. Yes, you might’ve been schlepped along on a school trip to an apple field, or you might’ve tipped a glass of cider at a pumpkin patch—but a day spent tromping around acres and acres of different varieties of apples and pears, perhaps getting a taste of some early coolish fall air? You’ll be rationalizing your decision to haul home 15 pounds of mixed varieties in no time. Add to that the bonus that many of the pick-your-own apple farms also bottle and serve hard cider and spirits, and you’ll realize it was indeed a very good idea to go picking.
• I love Greig Farm for all my summer pickings, but come fall, don’t miss Fix Bros. Fruit Farm
in Hudson for one of the largest assortments of apples and pears.
• I know you might’ve missed asparagus season, but there’s still plenty of lovely asparagus to buy in the stores right now and David Chang (of NYC’s Momofuko) has an asparagus with miso butter recipe that no one should truly live without. Spoiler: it has a soft-boiled egg on top. Need I say more?
• The Cosori Stainless Steel Dehydrator is well-priced, does meats and herbs as well as fruits and veggies and it’ll forever change your snacking game. Trust.