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Where to pick berries around Fredericksburg

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

RELATED: Tips for picking berries with your kids

Strawberry picking sits up there at the top of the list for must-do springtime activities. 

The season doesn’t feel quite right without buckets full of juicy berries covering the countertop and filling the fridge.

At my parent’s house, most of my family’s berries are always destined to become jars of jam, fabulous for slathering on toast and PB&J sandwiches throughout the year.

But my absolute favorite way to enjoy them (besides perfectly red, dirt-covered and right off the vine) is when they’re sliced up to put on top of homemade vanilla ice cream, drizzled with my mom’s decadent hot fudge sauce.

Simple and rewarding, sundaes topped with local in-season strawberries was the first objective for some of the 5 pounds of berries my boyfriend and I picked earlier this month.

While he may have traveled here from California for the week, I’m glad he didn’t bring that state’s subpar berries with him.

Local berries, ripened on the vine and typically smaller than those you’ll find in the grocery store that were trucked across the country, always seem much sweeter and more flavorful.

When I was growing up in Roanoke, my family would drive about an hour away to a huge strawberry farm in Moneta, where acres upon acres of fruit waited to be picked, though the season in Southwestern Virginia starts a little later than in the Fredericksburg region.

The staff at the entrance would direct us to one of their many fields, where we’d pick up gallon buckets, and start on a row. A little flag marks your progress, until you eventually stop picking.

After snacking on a few too many berries—hey, they’re perfectly ripe so you should take advantage—and making sure the buckets held as many as possible without overflowing, we’d settle up and head home. Jam-making and messy kitchens awaited.

A few years back, when my sister, Emma, and I were both in college and our folks were too busy to go picking, we would go ourselves. Unsure how many my mom needed to make her jam, we kept picking and picking and picking, until we ended up with about 5 gallons of strawberries costing at least $50. (That farm had a great price, a flat rate of $10 per overflowing bucket. And the staff encouraged you to make sure the bucket was full.)

My family ended up canning three or four batches of jam the next day, enough for a whole lot of Christmas gifts. Come to think of it, a few may still be sitting in their basement.

We tried all sorts of recipes that year to use up the remainder of the berries—mini pies, strawberry salsa, daiquiris, ice cream.

Needless to say, my boyfriend and I were excited to visit Fredericksburg’s new pick-your-own spot when it first opened in May.

It’s called Braehead Farm and is located in the Fredericksburg Industrial Park off the Blue and Gray Parkway. It’s also a mere two miles from my house.

The family-friendly agricultural pocket offers only 1 acre of strawberries for the public to pick. But a slew of berry treats can be found at the farm’s on-site store. The shop stocks honeys, jams, breads, produce, milk, eggs and ice cream, and on weekends, you can buy prepared meals.

And if berry picking doesn’t fill all your entertainment needs, spend a little more and take advantage of a playground on the farm. Swings and farm animals are sure to delight your little ones.

On the weekday we went, no one else was in the field. In less than a half-hour, we filled the farm-specific bucket with a little over 5 pounds of berries, at $2.99 per pound.

We ate them all in exactly one week’s time.

That first afternoon, I mixed up a simple four-ingredient vanilla ice cream in my Cuisinart ice cream maker, along with my favorite Cointreau-laced hot fudge sauce. Talk about the best before-dinner snack there is. Something about the combination of fresh berries, real ice cream and chocolate makes spring feel just right.

As for the rest of the berries, we ate them with yogurt and granola, muddled with sugar in strawberry–mint mojitos, and just straight from the fridge.

They kept surprisingly well in a 9- by 13-inch cake pan, on top of a paper towel, covered with a lid.

I went again a few days later, with a friend who delighted in her first strawberry-picking experience was at 25, and my mother and I plan to stock up for jam over the holiday weekend in southwest Virginia.

I have a feeling we won’t have any problem finishing off any remaining berries.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

 

HOT FUDGE SAUCE

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons liqueur, divided (Kahlua or Cointreau are good choices)
  • ¹⁄³ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine cocoa and both sugars.

2. Add cream, butter and 2 tablespoons liqueur. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sauce boils. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.

3. Remove from heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons liqueur and vanilla.

4. Serve warm on top of vanilla ice cream and sliced strawberries. Enjoy!

WANT TO PICK BERRIES?

BRAEHEAD FARM: 1130 Tyler Street, Fredericksburg, 540/899-9848, braeheadfarm.com. Open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily. Pick-your-own berries cost $2.99 per pound, with purchase of $1 Braehead Farm bucket. Pre-picked are available in the farm store, along with other produce, jams and honeys, bread, milk, eggs and ice cream. Food from Sunken Well Tavern is available on weekends. Admission to playground area is $5 per person, under 2 is free.

WESTMORELAND BERRY FARM: 1235 Berry Farm Lane, Oak Grove, 804/224-9171, westmorelandberryfarm.com. Hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday. The cost for pick-your-own is $20 for a Berry Farm container (purchased for $1) that holds about 4 quarts. The café offers new sandwiches and a salad, hot dogs, fresh fruit sundaes, Abner Butterfield Ice Cream Company and drinks. While there, hike along the recently reopened Voorhees Nature Preserve.

MILLER FARMS MARKET: 12101 Orange Plank Road, Locust Grove, 540/972-2680, miller farmsmarket.com. Open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Saturday. Pick-your-own berries are $2.50 per pound, or $5.25 per quart pre-picked. The patch is located across the road from the market, just past the greenhouses, so drive directly to the patch. Containers can be found in the red strawberry hut—a flat holds about 12 pounds, and a “busket” holds about 6. Pay back at the market, where you’ll find other seasonal produce, milk, cheeses, honey and jams, meat and gifts. 

For more information, visit the website below. You can also search this site for additional places to berry pick.

pickyourown.org/strawberries

 

 

 

 

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