I’ve been in search of u-pick cherry farms for quite a while, but missed the season (in the Midwest it’s from late July to Mid-August). My next craving was for peaches, so a little research told us there are plenty of u-pick farms to choose from in Coloma, Michigan which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from our home in Chicago.
Freshly Picked Blueberries /The Blueberry Patch in Sawyer, Michigan
Next came the semi-spontaneous decision to drive out to Michigan for the day, in search of peaches, apples and anything else we could pick from a tree or bush ourselves. That was last Sunday, one of the last weekends for peach and blueberry picking to be had in this area. Cameras, rough clothing and sun hats in tow, the drive seemed worth all the effort. Just imagine the peach cobbler we could have for dessert tomorrow…
Problem is– we were on Illinois time, arriving just in the nick of time (or so we thought) before the orchards closed. We were not on Michigan time, which is an hour ahead.
I was terribly disappointed, watching all the others who did arrive in time frolicking in the orchards and stowing away bushels of peaches in their trunks to carry home…for the peach cobbler they would probably have for dessert tomorrow.
Yellow Cherry Tomatoes from Fruit Acres in Coloma, Michigan
I remembered that there was a corner stand called Fruit Acres where I could buy the same stuff that came from the orchards. “But it’s just not the same.” I felt like a child who arrived too late at an amusement park or something, but I gave in. “Ok, let’s go see what they’ve got.
Small Squash & Eggplant/Fruit Acres Farm in Coloma, Michigan
They had the most beautiful selection of heirloom vegetables I’d seen in a very long time–and such a nice quantity, looking like pieces of table art instead of edible fruits and vegetables. I was back at the amusement park….
The most beautiful eggplant- I’ve only seen this variety in European markets
I really had no idea what I would do with any of it but with all this variety I did know the collection would inspire some great desserts, soups, tarts or stews to be had. I piled up fresh corn, eggplant, squash, cherry tomatoes, Michigan apples, and the purplest plums I thought surely only grew in my childhood backyard.
With our goods in tow, we headed back to Chicago–with one small detour.
There was u-pick blueberry farm, The Blueberry Patch, that I went to in the previous summer. At that time it was bustling with people picking berries, eating free fresh corn dipped in butter and buying interesting blueberry items like blueberry blossom honey and of course the berry preserves.
This time, there were no options to buy already-picked berries (which was what we wanted). Instead, the farm was pretty much void of any workers and left signs to customers to leave money for the amount of berries picked. An honor system of payment you don’t really see much of anymore.
We had to chuckle at the fact that when and where we wanted to pick, we couldn’t; when we wanted to buy already-picked, we had to pick ourselves…c’est la vie, right? That’s life.
U-Pick Blueberries/ The Blueberry Patch in Sawyer, Michigan
And oh, what a good one. The orchard was quiet, serene. Save for a few fun-loving pickers who were really enjoying themselves, there wasn’t a sound to be heard.
It’s the end of summer. I’d like to capture it in a bottle, or maybe in a jar of blueberry preserves.
This weekend (Sept. 12-14) may be the last weekend for peaches & blueberries, but you can always head out to Michigan or other Midwest locations for apple-picking. What a great way to spend the early fall with your family and friends and a great way to bring healthy food onto your plate.
U-Pick hours 10am-5pm. Saturday and Sunday only.
Farm Market hours everyday 9am-7pm. From Chicago, 1-94 to Exit #39 (Coloma)
The Blueberry Patch