Location: U-Pick farms are located across Alberta
Duration of Activity: Depends on how much you pick and how dirty you’re willing to get
Cost: Varies, depending on how much you pick and which farm you go to
No matter where in Alberta you are, there’s probably a U-Pick farm nearby. Seriously, these self-service DIY produce sections are all over the place, yet still a new experience for a city couple like myself and my husband, David. Where else could we get to feel like farmers, even if only for a few hours? On this leg of our continuing summer road trip series, “from farm to table” took on a whole new meaning for us.
Berries, Berries Everywhere!
Roy’s Raspberries, a 20 acre farm located about 20 minutes west of Edmonton in Spruce Grove. Of course, we’ve seen raspberry patches before but none of them compared to what awaited us at Roy’s. The raspberry bushes were tall and stretched as far as the eye could see, covered in bright red raspberries just waiting to be picked.
We did, however, take a gamble by just heading out this late in the summer. If we were smart, we would have called first to check on field conditions. We were lucky that Roy’s still had a lot of berries waiting to be picked, as we’ve since heard that other places are pretty picked over.
What You’ll Need
- A pail or bucket (you can purchase pails on site if you don’t have your own)
- Bug spray
- A hat (if you’re worried about getting sunburned)
I used regular gardening gloves, but you may want to use a thicker pair as raspberry bushes are surprisingly prickly. No matter how carefully we navigated the stems they still managed to get us at one point or another — maybe they’re just being overly protective of their juicy red gems; I know I would. And if the thorns don’t get you, the mosquitoes might. Or the grasshoppers may jump out to yell, “Boo!” while the spiders and no-see-ums hitch a ride in your pail. Who knew there would be so much life in a berry patch!
What to Expect
Even if you come with your own pail, stop into the office to get it weighed before you start — that’s how they determine your price when you’re done. They’ll weigh your pail again once it’s full, subtract the difference and charge you accordingly.
As we toiled away under the hot sun, we began to understand why staff recommends purchasing one of their pails instead of using our own. Their pails come with a string that allows you to hang the pail around your neck, freeing both hands to tackle the bush. Instead, we held our pail in one hand while navigating our way into the centre of the bush where some very juicy raspberries tried to hide. One-handed raspberry picking can be a bit of a challenge, but if you want to test your dexterity, I highly recommend it.
Reflective Zen Moment
There are no two ways around it: raspberry picking is work. And while we went home with pails full of fresh raspberries for baking and snacking, what we didn’t expect was the therapeutic side of berry farming. It was strangely calming, even with the hum of the highway traffic nearby. It’s amazing how connected and appreciative we became to the land and the food. Both David and I began to appreciate the love farmers have for their craft.
What I Learned: How to Keep Raspberries Fresh
Raspberries are delicate berries that don’t appreciate bonding with each other. In a large pail, the weight of the berries on top crushes the ones at the bottom. If you plan on picking a lot and you don’t want to use them for jams or jellies, bring many smaller containers for picking and a cooler with ice for transporting the berries home.
If you plan on eating your raspberries as snacks, or if you’re freezing them for later, give them a vinegar or lemon juice bath to help extend their freshness.
- Mix 1-part vinegar to 10-parts water (or add two tablespoons of lemon juice to water)
- Gently soak the berries in the vinegar or lemon bath for no more than 2 minutes
- Rinse the berries gently with water
- Dry the berries on a kitchen towel or parchment paper and let any excess water drain
- Place them into a bowl or plastic berry container and enjoy
My Alberta Road Trip (a Series)
Every Friday this summer, Krista, an AMA Web Content Specialist, and her husband David are discovering the sights and experiences that make Alberta great. Follow this blog series to find fun, unique, and cheap activities around Alberta.
Want to see what else we get up to this summer? Come back every week for a recap of our most recent adventure.
My Alberta Road Trip: