This is the time of year we all dream about during the depths of winter: relaxing afternoons in the sunshine, pool parties, travel plans and gorgeous summer produce, just-picked and practically glowing with ripeness and flavor. Sure, you can always find a sealed plastic package of imported berries at the supermarket during the fall and winter, but those poor specimens are just a shadow of peak-season berries. When summer comes, we want locally grown berries by the bushel!
If you feel the same, scratch your berry itch at Weaver’s Orchard, a scenic, family-owned orchard, pick-your-own farm and market in Morgantown, Pa. Right now, there is an abundance of summer crops ready to be turned into pies, canned in jars or just enjoyed by the handful! One great thing about pick-your-own at Weaver’s Orchard is that wristbands, which give you entry into the fruit fields, are free, Monday through Thursday (excluding holidays)!
Here are some of the sweet, beautiful fruits in season at Weaver’s Orchard:
Don’t sleep on this: The best time for raspberry picking is late-June into early-July! It’s not just the classic red raspberries that Weaver’s Orchard offers; it also has black raspberries. Not to be confused with blackberries, antioxidant-packed black raspberries have a unique and incredible flavor that’s sweeter and less tart than their red cousins.
When you go raspberry picking, there are a few good things to keep in mind. If you’re looking for black raspberries, be sure to avoid all the red berries — they haven’t fully ripened yet! Look for berries with a rich, almost-black deep purple color. Ripe berries will also come off the bush easily. Same goes for red raspberries: Only pick ones that are a deep crimson color. And for both, don’t fill your containers up too much! This can crush the delicate berries. If you need more containers, Weaver’s Orchard can supply them!
- Don’t store raspberries in an air-tight container. Choose a container with some air flow, and line the bottom with paper towels, making sure that some of the container’s holes aren’t covered to allow for air circulation.
- Avoid storing raspberries in the colder parts of your refrigerator, usually the top and the back of the fridge; position them closer to the front, even in the door, to avoid frost damage.
- You can, however, easily freeze raspberries, to enjoy once they’re out of season, or to add to smoothies and shakes.
A quintessential summer fruit, blueberries are not only incredibly nutritious, but they are also a superb crowd-pleaser. Even the pickiest toddlers we’ve met have been known to devour a pint of blueberries in one sitting, no problem. Good for every meal of the day (they’re amazing in salads!), this is the one fruit that you cannot miss out on this season! Plus, seasonal blueberries are like night and day compared to the kind you find in the grocery store. They’re much less tart, with a glorious floral,almost perfumed, essence. Prime picking time this year is between July 5 and 15.
While picking blueberries, always look for fully ripened berries. This can be tricky! Blueberries darken in color before they are truly ripe. To be sure, turn the berry over and look at the stem end. If it’s still red or green, it’s not ripe — a fully ripe blueberry is deep blue, all the way to the stem. Also, while blueberries grow in clusters, the berries don’t all ripen at the same time. Take your time and be sure to actually look at the berries on each cluster before adding them to your container!
- Always sort your blueberries. Discard any that are wilted, crushed, shriveled or moldy. This will help prolong the shelf life of the rest of the batch.
- Pull off any remaining stems! They can’t hurt you, but they have a bitter taste and can get caught in your teeth.
- Rinse your berries and then make sure they are fully dry before putting them in the fridge. You can let them air dry on a towel or gently spin them in a salad spinner.
- Line a non-metal bowl or basket with paper towels. Berries last longer when there’s good air circulation around them, so try to choose a container that has small holes or slits in it.
- Blueberries freeze well, but in the fridge, keep them in the less-cold areas (front, bottom and door).
How we love summer cherries! Baked into a cobbler, stirred into yogurt or brought along on a picnic they are one of the finest pleasures of summertime. Dark sweet and yellow cherries are also reaching the peak of their season. The best time for picking: late-June and the very beginning of July!
If you’re after dark sweet cherries, look for dark fruit; the darker they are, the riper and sweeter they will be. The darkest cherries will often be found at the tops of trees; you’re welcome to bring your own ladder and use it, but, otherwise, please do not climb or shake the trees! For yellow sweet cherries, pay attention to the “rosy cheeks” of the fruit. A nice blush is a sure sign of ripeness.
- If possible, keep stems on the fruit until you’re ready to eat or use them. This helps them last longer.
- Only allow cherries to stay at room temperature for a short time — get them in the fridge as soon as possible!
- Store cherries in a resealable plastic bag or air-tight container, as they can absorb the odors and flavors of other foods.
- When you’re ready to use the cherries, especially for baking, de-stone them with a cherry pitter; chopsticks or paper clips can also be used to remove the pits with ease.
It’s worth mentioning one more time that wristbands are completely free of charge Monday through Thursday (except holidays) and only $2 each on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays! Pick-your-own hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m–6 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m.–4 p.m.; closed Sundays. Weaver’s Orchard is open on July 4th from 7 a.m. –2 p.m.
If you are looking for more great family-friendly activities, check out Weaver’s Orchard’s Orchard Explorers Workshops. For just $10 per session, kids get to learn from an experienced educator about all kinds of farm-related topics, ranging from pollination to soil composition. Each week also focuses on a different seasonal fruit, such as donut peaches and sugar plums. These sessions are held Tuesday mornings, 9:30–11 a.m., from now until August 21, and are designed for kids between the ages of 7 and 10 (a designated chaperone must accompany children). If you’ve got little ones, check out Read ‘N’ Pick Story Time on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
“As a family, we are passionate about growing fruit,” says Elizabeth Weaver, assistant coordinator of the Orchard Explorers workshops. “Our vision is to start programs for children that give them a ‘behind the scenes’ look at farming in their community … when we see piles of kids running around our farm, they aren’t just having a great time but hopefully picking up a lasting impression that farms are important.”
To attend one of the upcoming Orchard Explorers Workshops, please RSVP via Facebook.
With so many reasons to enjoy the summer bounty at Weaver’s Orchard, plan your visit today!
Find Weaver’s Orchard at 40 Fruit Lane in Morgantown; phone: (610) 856-7300.