Food & Entertaining - In Season

Plan a social harvest

Pick up new skills in the kitchen by sharing the burden of picking and preserving your bounty

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.”

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