Berry Treasure

Berry Treasure

There’s just something about raspberries. Maybe it’s their musky sweetness followed by a touch of sour. Maybe it’s their delicacy or the shy way they hide beneath the leaves of their canes. Maybe it’s the fact that they ripen at a time of year when it’s pleasant to be out in the fields, when the days are warm and the evenings are cool.

Whatever the reason, it’s raspberry season. Time to head out to Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford (though you should call the pick-your-own hotline at 203-458-7425 first; hours can be “sporadic”) if you want to pick your own in exchange for a price break and the special taste of berries right off the bush.

My friend Heather and I drove out to Guilford one weekday, eventually turning down winding, pastoral Dunk Rock Road. Parking was on a grassy patch beside a farm pond dotted with water lilies. Attendants in a kiosk a short walk up the driveway gave us each a small bucket lined with a plastic bag—enough to hold about five pounds of berries—and tied to a loop of rope you can put around your neck for freer picking.

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Fair warning: Picking raspberries has its hazards. A healthy contingent of bees were flitting from one tiny flower to the next, doing their job. A few brushed my arms as I worked, but they seemed perfectly content; presumably, their stomachs were full of nectar. Then there are the thorns. Picking raspberries requires a gentle touch, and if you apply that to the canes as well, pricks to your fingers will be quickly forgotten. Heather wore long sleeves to avoid scratched arms—a good idea if it’s not too hot out.

The raspberry rows at Bishop’s were neatly mowed and tidy, with canes tied up behind lengths of orange twine, though that made it hard sometimes to reach through layers of vegetation to that perfect ruby specimen tucked just a little too far back. The picking was plentiful the day of our visit, even though a mere half dozen rows or so were open at the front of the patch and thousands of their tiny green berries were yet to ripen.

With a harvest like that at your fingertips, it’s possible to move meditatively down the rows with repetitive motions—gentle tug, berry in the bucket—occasionally lifting a prickery cane to find a wealth of perfect fruits waiting. And the aroma! I paused halfway down the first row just to breathe in that gentle, fruity fragrance. Although several people were picking along with us, it was quiet. Everyone seemed lost in their own thoughts while around them the tallest canes fluttered nervously in the breeze, showing their light green undersides. I picked alone, occasionally looking up to catch a glimpse of Heather’s wide-brimmed sun hat a couple of rows over.

It’s easy to become greedy, to resist stopping even when you have more berries than you can use—though they do freeze nicely on a cookie sheet for winter smoothies or baking. Our fingers stained a pinkish red, our buckets feeling heavy, we curbed our instinct to continue and headed to the kiosk to check out.

“What we love to do is ask people how they like to eat them,” said pick-your-own attendant Judy Eide as she weighed the fruits of our labor. She rattled off the answers she hears: plain or with ice cream, in jam or scones. On its website, Bishop’s suggests “salads, yogurt, juices, sauces, cakes and cookies.” One customer reportedly told Eide she’d be making raspberry liqueur. We had our own plans. Mine were going home to be eaten by the handful, atop morning oatmeal and in muffins. Heather’s ended up in a coffee cake, a pandowdy (like a cobbler or a crisp) and in her freezer. The plastic bags Bishop’s provides aren’t the greatest device for transport, but you can purchase a box if you need one. Better yet, do your picking directly into a box or your own wide, sturdy container to keep the berries from being crushed under their own weight.

In about an hour, between the two of us, Heather and I had picked about five and a half pounds. For those who can’t make it into the patch, berries are sold in the farm market on Route 1 in Guilford, too.

Pears, apples and pumpkins are on the fall pick-your-own calendar as well, the latter two reaching into late October. The raspberries may make it that far, though they’ll likely be peaking this month. Bishop’s recommends using them “within a day unless properly stored fresh or frozen.” They’re delicate little gems whose fragility is just one more reason to treasure them.

Bishop’s Orchards Pick-Your-Own Raspberries
280 Dunk Rock Rd, Guilford (map)
Field open into October
(203) 458-7425 (call ahead for daily hours and conditions)…

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Images 1, 3, 4 and 5 photographed by Dan Mims. Images 2, 6 and 7 photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. This updated story was originally published on September 24, 2019.

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