Does the thought of pickling cucumbers, canning tomatoes and freezing berries leave you tired? When it comes to preserving the short-lived Canadian harvest, not only do many hands make light work, they make for a lot of fun along the way. Robin Rivers, creator and editor of OurBigEarth.com, a green parenting website serving B.C.’s Comox Valley, organizes picking parties for groups of up to 10 families. “It’s a lot of work to do by yourself, but when you do it together it’s more of a party,” says Rivers.
Whether picking wild blueberries in the woods or not-so-wild cucumbers at a pick-your-own farm, the basics are the same: Everyone, old and young, picks, then the bounty is divided equally among the families. Depending on the crop, people rush home to freeze the spoils or gather at a later date for canning and preserving sessions.
Share the spoils, share the knowledge
“Too many cooks in the kitchen can be a total chaos,” admits Rivers. But if properly organized, these preserve parties are an excellent opportunity to share skills. The best way to stay organized is to assign everyone a specific job and let one experienced person lead the charge. Beginners get a hands-on lesson from the veterans and everyone leaves with delicious preserves.
Reap the added benefits
As if fresh, wholesome produce isn’t enough, these excursions leave kids with a healthier attitude towards food. “They’re less fussy at meals because they know they’ve picked the food,” Rivers says. After participating in Our Big Earth’s kids’ organic gardening program, one die-hard mac & cheese child ate his first vegetable, much to his shocked mother’s delight. Why the change in attitude? Rivers believes it’s all about exposure. “When [kids] are given the opportunity to touch [the food] and feel it and make it their own, it’s much easier for them to think of putting it in their mouths and tasting it.”