So I took off Tuesday and Wednesday to celebrate my daughters birthday. Just us family. I didn't really have plans but 1 thing i knew was that we should go blueberry picking.
I called all the places and sent emails days in advance looking for open you picks with the best prices.
I finally found one in plant city on Heathcoe Rd. (All about blueberry farms~ www.upickfl.com).
We drove a little over a half hour down long roads that had on both sides fields of crops like tomatoes, cantaloupe, and squash. I watched as fields were sprayed by large tractors strapped down with tubs of liquid. We turned down a road where I saw blueberries, small ones, large ones, HUGE ones... down the road we pulled up to a house, no u pick signs or anything, I wasnt sure if we were in the right place. As i drove up I saw people under a shade roof sorting blueberries, they were laughing and joking in Spanish their hands quickly combing through flats of blueberries.
I called the number to the u-pick placing asking if I was in the right spot, a gentlemen on the other side assured me I was and said he would be right out. A few minutes later from the fields came a tallish man with a large floppy hat on, tanned, and hands that showed work. He shook our hands greeting us and welcoming us to his land, he wished my daughter a happy birthday (I had told him over the phone) and gave her a big smile. He handed us 2 buckets and directed us to the best spots to pick. We headed to the fields as he told us that one bucket equals 7 pounds and costs $20 that comes to less then $3 a pound. We picked and picked and picked walking up and down rows. Coming to the fence line I saw bee hives on the other side of the fence... every 10 ft was a box bee hive swarming with lovely bees, now that's good pollination practices!! We picked those little berries for 2 hours to fill 2 buckets staining my fingertips purple in the process. Only 1 mishap happened where Brooke stepped into a fire ant pile and they swarmed her legs biting her all over. When we came back up I asked some questions: What do you spray? Nothing.. Nothing?.. NOTHING!
Yes ~ they use organic methods, planting in pine bark, fertilizing with potash and organic nitrogen, using direct irrigation to water. Its a family farm and the only time they employ out is picking season. This made me very happy to hear! My day was well spent.
We came home and made blueberry syrup (no corn syrup used so its thin), blueberry fruit butter, we froze a bunch of blueberries, and I have a cup left to make blueberry wine jelly.. this is all in addition to my daughter eating fistfuls of blueberries!!
I came home and posted on a canning group I am apart of about my blueberries, and skimming through posts I had missed.. 1 post jumped right outta the screen at me... TOMATOES 5 GALLON BUCKET FULL FOR $1 (that's about 25 pounds) HOLY CRAP!
I debated it back and forth, then bounced it off of Ronnie he of course said heck yes! We went to my grandmothers to drop off her 7 pounds of blueberries and told her, she help pitch in for gas and jars in trade for a shopping bag of fresh tomatoes and a couple jars of canned tomato goods. It was a 60 mile trip on way but when we got there it became apparent that it was well worth it. They have a max of 5 containers per person (kids count) so we had a max of 15.. we had only brought 8 containers (oh well next time).
We drove out to the picking field with other families and pulled up next to rows as far as the eye could see of tomatoes
we got out and started picking...
after about a hour we had all 8 containers filled (1 large bag, 1 "green" shopping bag, 3 5 gallon buckets, 2 produce baskets, and a picking basket my grandma had given me)
Yes they were less then 5 gallons but its all we had (again note for next time bring brown bags or more buckets), we drove back and checked out grabbing some other produce at checkout (jalapenos, and onions for salsa) it all came to $11. I got home and weighed it out somewhere around 200+ pounds were picked and since that was half a 3 person family can go out and pick about 400 pounds of tomatoes. Now we are canning, and canning, and canning some more. In fact for the last 2 nights I have been up till at least 1am canning, Now i have come down with a cold but CANT STOP CANNING....
We still have about 125 pounds to put up, YIKES.
So far I have canned:
~ 4 quarts tomato sauces
~ 5 pint pizza sauces
~ 6 quarts crushed tomatoes
Even with figuring in gas (about $40 worth for the whole trip) it came to less the 0.25 cents a pound.. find that at the grocery store!!!