As various fruits come into season, u-pick places are opening their doors to the hungry. Resources like Pick Your Own come into their own, but here are some things you need to consider.
Unless you live in a rural area the likelihood is that you will be driving for an hour or more.
Make sure your GPS or map navigator knows how to get you there, or that you have good directions. It is quite disheartening to wind up miles away from your intended destination!
Leave early. In Southern summers you don’t want to be picking at noon or in the afternoon when the heat and humidity are at their worst. If you set off at 4pm and the place closes at 5pm, you will not be happy.
Wear appropriate clothes. Blueberries and blackberries can stain – you won’t want to wear light colours if you tend to wipe your hands.
Bring a hat. (Yes, I know hats are clothes, but it’s easy to forget until you’re out there!)
Take plenty of drinks with you. Picking can feel like work (don’t volunteer to pick 2 gallons of blueberries at 1pm in July!) and be very hot. Don’t let dehydration or sunstroke spoil your day.
Apply sun block liberally before you arrive even if you think it will be overcast. Lobster is not a good colour for most people!
Bugs. Where there is fruit, there are bugs – bees, wasps, grasshoppers, flies, and so on. Also bear in mind that being eaten alive by mosquitoes is not fun so don’t be stingy with the bug spray.
Once you’re there
Allow yourself enough time to pick the fruit. If you have children it will take longer than if you are with adults only; this isn’t only because children tend to eat more than they leave in the buckets!
Specific fruits have their own demands – large blackberries pick a lot faster than blueberries, for example. Allow about an hour for a gallon of larger berries, and add half an hour for smaller ones.
If you’re planning to make jam, a few less-ripe berries can actually be good; they add a tarter flavour. It’s all up to you! If you only have one person in the family who prefers a less-sweet jam, plan to pick through the berries and just make a small amount of jam with the more tart flavour.
Don’t assume the u-pick location takes credit/debit cards. Call ahead and ask, or carry cash. You might also want to ask how much a gallon of the fruit costs so you can bring enough.
Many places will decant your berries into plastic grocery bags. You might want to bring a cooler to transport them safely home.