Driving around Charleston, we were constantly getting lost. The city is confined to a small peninsula and the suburbs are all linked by bridges and causeways, so one mistake means you may be stuck on a bridge to a new island. During one five-mile loop around the block, looking for our campground, I noticed a U-Pick strawberry sign. It took some time to convince Paul that this would actually be a fun thing to do, but I finally managed. And it was fun.
Boone Hall Farms is a totally U-Pick farm. The land has been farmland since 1681, growing various things. After the modern owners’ farm was destroyed by hurricane Hugo, they reopened as a U-Pick farm. Genius. Because people pick their own produce, they save on labor costs and are able to sell produce at dirt cheap prices. Our strawberries were $1.59 per pound. We learned that this year, they had to cover the strawberries to keep them from ripening too early — in January. They also grow blackberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, tomatoes, and other things that I’ve forgotten.
Not only is it cheaper to pick your own produce, it’s also a lot more fun than agonizing over the strawberry packages in the supermarket. And because you’ve just picked your produce that day, it stays fresher longer than a sad tomato that was picked and artificially ripened three weeks ago.
And did I mention that it’s fun? It’s fun to pluck the strawberries from their stems. When you lean down to pluck a berry, the scent of crushed, fermenting berries hits you in an intoxicating wave. If you like only small berries, you can pick only small berries. If you like big, you can pick only big. You can pick as much or as little as you need. It’s all over too soon. If I lived here, I’d pick fresh produce every weekend, though they also have a store for those time crunched or mobility impaired. If you have a U-Pick farm around you, give it a try one weekend.