To make the most of your picking excursion, Rivers recommends keeping the following in mind:
Exercise caution: If you’re picking in the woods, be on the lookout for wildlife. Berries hit their peak just as animals are bulking up for winter. Don’t venture into areas where you know bears or cougars have been spotted. Even in “safe” areas, be on the alert.
Know the crop: Berries won’t keep for more than a few hours, while cucumbers can wait a couple of days. Depending on the crop, you might need to arrive at the picking party with coolers and ice. A bit of planning will save your hand-picked harvest from the compost bin.
Know your weaknesses: Rivers estimates half of what they pick lands atop salads or disappears into smoothies before she can preserve it. If your family is eager to eat their harvest, plan on two trips so you can enjoy the fresh produce now and have enough for the winter.
Be thrifty: Glass jars can be expensive, so scour thrift shops and garage sales. Rivers has picked up 100 canning jars for five dollars. All they needed was a washing and new lids.
Charmian Christie is an avid gardener and home cook. When she's not digging in the dirt, she's charting her culinary adventures on her blog, Christie's Corner.