No, I didn’t recently go to Israel to pick onions, but as you may recall, my friend recently moved there.  She sent me this post to share about onion picking.  She’s also compiling a “foodie list” of things for me to see and do when I have the opportunity to visit.

Today my family and I headed out to a field about an hour from us to pick onions. We weren’t picking for us, we were picking for a charity group that gleans fields that farmers have already picked in order to donate the food to food pantries.  The field we went to was in Nahalal (in Israel), and while it may be far from where you are, like I said, it only happens to be an hour from us. There were about 31 of us, so the crowd was sizable.


The directions were pretty simple: pick a row, pick every onion that is not rotten or too small, remove as much of the paper as you can, throw it in a bucket. They collected all the buckets and as a group we ended up filling two large crates (maybe six feet by six feet by 4 feet, but it was a guess).

We started picking around 9 a.m. when it wasn’t too hot, and kept going until 11:15 a.m. (when it was VERY HOT). The group stopped for fruit and water, and then everyone else went back to picking. My kids were done by then, and a friend of my husband who lives on the next kibbutz over heard we were around and stopped by to say hi. The group picked until about 12:15 p.m. and then everyone was done and ready to go. By the time we left a group of army recruits from the base nearby had shown up to finish the field, along with a bunch of employees from a corporate bank. They get a lot of volunteers, which is great, they have a lot of fields to cover.
Afterwards we took the bus to Tsfat, instead of home, and enjoyed dinner with a beautiful view of the Kinneret. A good day all around.  It is 7:00 p.m. as I type this and I still smell like onions. I’d never picked onions before, so it was definitely an experience. Next year I hope we get to pick something a bit more tasty and a little less smelly.

Thanks for sharing!  I can’t wait to hear about more adventures.

 Posted by at 10:17 PM

Today I took Nick and Sally to Eddy’s Fruit Farm in Chesterland to pick apples. We met a friend of Nick’s there, as well as his parents and grandmother. I enjoyed meeting them, and it turns out that his Dad and I have some links via my alma mater.

In any event, the purpose of the day was apples. As Lyn may have mentioned, the tree fruit crop this year was hurt badly by this spring’s weather. Some U-pick farms don’t have picking at all this year, while others, like Eddy’s, are open for picking fewer days than usual. That said, the picking was great today. The trees were laden with ripe apples. Here and there they were even bunched like grapes down a heavily-bent branch.

As usual, the picking on the low branches wasn’t very good near the entrance. There were still some to get up high (I’m over six feet tall, which helps) and, of course, the farthest corner of the orchard is always the least-picked.

We started with Golden Delicious. Nick spent some time picking with his friend, while Sally picked with me. She was full of giggles when she picked one apple and had the other one come along for the ride.

There was a chilly breeze blowing despite the sunny day, and Sally was cold. Worse, she was missing her nap, so she soon asked to ride in the stroller. A few minutes later, she asked, “Daddy, can I pick from the stroller?”  I found a low-hanging branch and let her try. After she picked two of the four apples on that branch, she was done and ready to nestle under her blanket. We switched to picking some kind of red apple, and Nick decided to give one a try. It disappeared quickly, so it must be good.


We picked 49 pounds of apples, which comes to about a bushel and a quarter. I was impressed with our haul until Lyn told me it took 21 pounds of apples to can 7 quarts of applesauce. Ah, well, I can pat myself on the back for hauling all 49 pounds to the car while pushing a stroller and conversing with an inquisitive Nick. Yes, there are special skills daddies develop.

All in all, it was a good outing. We left a few apples on the trees, but if you go, be sure to call first to check hours and availability.


During our second full day at Capitol Reef National Park, the group divided into two.  One group headed out for a long, more strenuous hike.   The rest of us set out to check out the non-hiking part of the park.  We stopped at the Gifford Farmhouse and the blacksmith shop.  At some point we also heard a ranger talk.  That was fun since the ranger was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio.


We visited the visitor center and watched the film about the park.  Our main purpose at the center was to find out about U-Pick fruit.  Fruita, Utah is known for historic orchards that are located within the national park.


We got directions and headed to the orchards.  We were met by classic U-Pick signs.  We were also met with the most beautiful backdrop for any picking that I have ever done.  The photo on the right is an apple orchard.


Any fruit consumed while in the orchard is free.  Any fruit picked to take with you is $1.00 a pound.  Everything is done on the honor system.  There is a box with bags, a scale and a money drop at each orchard.  We heard that the peaches are a bit more protected when they are in their peak, but we weren’t there during that time.


The apples were most delicious.


After the apples, we headed to find pears.  This orchard also had a few peach trees.  We may have picked a few of them as well.


After a wonderful experience picking, we headed back to the field station where some sort of cobbler making was on the menu for dessert.


We had a great time exploring the park and the dessert turned out great.  The rest of the group had a great hike and everyone was happy with the day.

 Posted by at 10:07 PM

After the kids and I picked peaches on Sunday, we decided to stop and pick a few blackberries.  The blackberry patch was right off of 113 between the market and Wright Road.  We first arrived and found an empty table.  We left and went to pay for our peaches and checked on blackberries at the market and headed back over.  Apparently, the attendant had just taken a potty break.  I suggested a “back in 5 min” sign was in order.  She was very nice and the parking was close to the berries.


The attendant walked over to show us what we were looking for.  She wanted to make sure we knew there were good berries there if you look under the leaves and in the bushes.  Sally ate a red one and the attendant snapped at her because she didn’t want her to get sick.  Sally started crying.  She was mostly just very, very tired.


Nick found some black berries and Sally took a nap.  Don’t worry, we could see the car the whole time we were picking.  She was in the shade and the door was open.


We only picked a pound and a half.  It was $4.50 total.  It wasn’t really good picking.  When the field looks red upon arrival, that’s not a good sign.  I’m sure many people had picked on Saturday and probably earlier in the day on Sunday.


Even though we didn’t get many berries, it was fun to check out the crop.  I’m hoping to get some more closer to home next week since blackberries are great in jam and smoothies.


On Sunday, I contacted Patterson Fruit Farm and inquired about U-Pick peaches for this year.  I was informed that there was not enough peaches for pick your own this year.  I was sad since I had such a good time picking them there last year.  So, I went through my list of farms and remembered that Burnham Orchards was having U-Pick peaches.  The kids and I had plans to meet friends at a west side farmers’ market, so we decided the extra 50 minute drive wouldn’t be bad to head over to the orchard.  Usually, we drive about 45 minutes or less for U-Pick.  I’ve wanted to visit Burnham for a while now.  They are one of the few farms in the area that usually have U-Pick sweet cherries.

We stopped at the market to get the picking location.  It turns out that our friends approached the orchard from a different direction, so it took a few minutes for all of us to meet up at the right picking location.  We ended up picking off Wright Rd and 113.  We were there right before picking was supposed to start for the day.  The hours were 12-4 and it was about 5 til when we arrived.  The staff was a bit disorganized, but everything was quickly remedied.  It wasn’t fun to find out that we’d have to load the peaches in our car and drive back to the market to have them weighed.  I’m used to paying in the field where I pick.


Soon enough, we were surrounded by peach trees.


Sally loved carrying her own basket.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and she would pick a peach, take a bite and then put it in her basket.  She did this 8 times before I caught her.  I bought the peaches.


Nick and Sally both taste tested.  The peaches weren’t quite ripe, but it didn’t stop them from eating one.


It was a rare picking day.  We had all three of us and a friend to take a photo.


Nick loved pulling the wagon.  We ended up with 3 big baskets full.  All together, we picked about 60 pounds of peaches.  They were 90 cents a pound when you bought 24 pounds or more.


I canned our first of them today.  I ended up with 5 quarts.  The rest didn’t seem quite ripe enough.  I’m hopefully that I can do another batch tomorrow and then the last of them on Friday.  Unfortunately, we won’t be able to pick more this year, but we still may procure some additional peaches for canning.


This morning, Sally and I headed to Voytko Farms for blueberry picking after we dropped Nick off at camp.  The farm is easy to find and has a few signs along the way.  Once in the barn, there’s a nice sign with information and usually an attendant around to help.  This year, berries are $1.75 a pound.


We met up with our friend Shayna.  Sally was super excited to see her.  Soon, we had some berries in our buckets.  No, Sally didn’t pick those, she just modeled with the bucket for the photo.


I had Shayna take a photo of me picking.  This is a rare occurrence, since most of the time there aren’t other adults in the patch with us.  We started to hear thunder and new it was going to rain.  Once it started sprinkling, we headed to the barn.  It was raining pretty hard buy the time we got back.


It was actually a welcome sight and I just hoped it was also raining in our garden.  Chuck runs the farm and had a computer with internet access in the barn.  He looked up the radar and said that there was no way the storm missed Mayfield Heights.  I was a soaked but happy camper.


With the rain, we ended up picking for 45 minutes.  I ended up with 2.5 pounds of berries and a nice outing with Sally and Shayna.  Since the berries were wet, I laid them on a paper towel on a cookie sheet to dry them out a bit before I froze them.


The picking was outstanding and I’d definitely suggest checking out the farm.  All of my berries came from just 2 bushes and I could have picked more.

Voytko Farms is located at 11391 Franks Road, Auburn Township, OH 44023


Yep, after our visit to Wintergreen Tree Farm on Tuesday, Sally and I headed back to Mantua today.  Once we checked in, we headed to almost the last row of bushes.  Then, we headed to the back of the row.  At times, it was hard to get through the aisle.  I knew if we kept going, the picking was going to be great.  The berries did not let us down.  Even though Sally can walk on her own, I don’t know if I can go blueberry picking without a stroller.  It’s nice to have a place for all of our stuff.


Sally has been really enjoying my attention since Nick’s been at camp this week.  I kept catching her eating blueberries out of the big bucket.  My response was usually for her to pick her own if she was hungry.


Back at the shed, Hannah checked us out.  We picked almost 9 pounds!  I didn’t get a photo of our crop, but our buckets was just a couple of inches from the top.  Again, I put them in containers and they went straight to our freezer.


I talk to Hannah about the crop.  She guesses that there’s about 2 weeks of picking left.  I’m hoping to take my niece and nephew when they come to town.  It’s going to be tight.  My niece really wants to go blueberry picking.


Sally posed with Hannah.  It was a great day for picking!


It’s blueberry time!  Blueberry picking is one of my favorite u-pick crops.  It’s not as easy to fill a pail like apples or peaches, but it’s so rewarding.

We really like Wintergreen Tree Farm for blueberries.  Here’s a photo of one of the rows that we picked in yesterday.  The bushes are tall enough that you aren’t even in full sun.


Since Nick is enjoying camp this week, Sally and I headed out to the farm.  I wasn’t sure how it would be to have a toddler to entertain while I picked.  She did great.  It took her about 2 seconds to pick and eat a blueberry.  I love the guilty look on her face.  There’s a reason she’s in a purple shirt.


The bushes were loaded with blueberries.  Picking was especially good yesterday.  It was even better if you took time to walk to the back of the row and pick.  It’s hard to walk by ripe berries, but it’s usually worth waiting for the superb picking.  I generally will walk to the end of the row and then work my way back to the front.  I start out meticulously picking and then as the little ones get tired, I do some picking, walking, picking, walking routine until we get back to the parking area.


Even though Sally can definitely walk, we took the stroller.  I had planned to use it for gear and berries, but she actually sat in it off and on.  It worked out just fine.  Last year, the kids and I fell in love with Julie.  She’s moved on from working at this farm and Hannah has taken over.  She was nice enough to let me take a photo of her.  She’s worked chestnuts and Christmas Trees here before, so she’s not new to the farm.


This is a photo of the little shed where you start and end picking.  There’s a port-a-jon and two picnic tables.  They also sell cold drinks at the shed.  I ended up picking just over 7 pounds of berries.  $11.50 was our total.


I put the berries into these containers, delivered one to a friend, one to the fridge and the rest to our freezer.  Some people lay berries out on a cookie sheet to freeze first, but as long as the berries are dry, I just freeze them in the containers.  If I start running out of containers, I’ll sometimes pour them into resealable plastic bags once they are frozen.  That way, they don’t get squashed.


The photo on the right is to show the great color on the berries.  We’re hoping to go picking a few more times this season.  I haven’t decided if we’ll try any other farms this year.


On Friday, June 22nd, we had the opportunity to pick blueberries with my in laws in Delaware.  They have a great U-Pick place just a few minutes from their house.  We visited Fifer Orchards last fall for apples, but this was our first experience with blueberries.  The berries were plentiful.  It was a very hot day for picking.  We were glad that we arrived just after they opened.


Here are some photos of the crew picking.


We were glad that we had water bottles, especially for the kids.


After picking, Nick and Sally enjoyed a few minutes on the swing.  I found the reminder sign interesting because I hadn’t really seen them before and I noticed them several times on our vacation.  It basically says not to eat fresh fruits and vegetables without washing them and gives specific procedures for washing and sanitizing surfaces etc..


A trip to Fifer isn’t complete with ice cream, so we all enjoyed some even though it was mid morning.  While we were there, my mother in law picked up some beautiful produce.


I always enjoy their displays.  We had a great time and ended up picking about 8 pounds of berries.


I’m not sure who was happier, Sally or Grandpa.  Everyone had a great visit to Fifer.  Some of the blueberries were made into syrup, we left a few in Delaware for the in laws to enjoy, and the rest were happily enjoyed at our beach house last week.

 Posted by at 9:33 PM

On Wednesday, the kids and I headed out to Mike’s Berries in Lagrange, Ohio.  I had never head of Lagrange until I looked it up.  Google showed it 1 hour away.  I don’t usually travel that far for U-Pick, but it met my hour maximum for travel and they have the only “non sprayed, no pesticides” U-Pick strawberries that I found.  Since most of our farms for U-Pick spray, I really wanted to check out this farm.


Right after we arrived, we met Mike.  It was a perfect photo opportunity!  He was quite personable.


When you don’t spray, you get weeds.  This is probably the last year for this patch as it’s getting quite overgrown and will probably be tilled at the end of this season.


Nick and Sally loved investigating the field as they looked for berries.


Soon, they were finding red berries right and left.


The berries taste great, but it wasn’t the best picking.  This is just a really rough year for strawberries everywhere.  Most places have limited U-pick with small berries and are having a very short season.

We ended up picking about 3 quarts.  Grandma Carol and Mike helped us top them off to make an even 4 quarts for $10.


Carol weighed them to make sure we had the full amount we paid for.  A quart should be a pound and a half.  We picked our berries in these quart containers and used their carrier in the field.  Once they were weighed, I put them in a container that I had in the car so they could keep their containers for another customer.


Besides strawberries, Mike’s farm expects to have tomatoes, potatoes, late season berries, and lots of different varieties of garlic this year.  Due to the distance for us to travel, we probably won’t be heading there often, but we really enjoyed our visit and would recommend this farm to others, especially if you live on the west side.

 Posted by at 3:00 PM