Up Close & Personal with Berries at Soergel Orchards

The sun emerged in the distant horizon as we huddled in Soergel Orchards’ parking lot. We ate fresh baked scones and sipped morning beverages while a rooster announced the start of another glorious morning. The scones, prepared by my friend Barb, were buttery and flaky with dots of chocolate chips throughout. Barb took a bite of her own scone and mentioned the crispy sugary top had softened during our 40 minute drive into the suburbs. Her quest for culinary perfection went unnoticed as the flavor enveloped me in sweet bakery comfort.

With baskets in hand, we began the steep climb to the seemingly endless rows of blueberry bushes at the top of the hill. I was barely old enough to remember the last time I participated in u-pick activities. This was sure to be a day filled with joy, laughter and really great berries.

Our strategy to collecting the most prized bounty was to forage deeper into the bushes located in the farthest corner of the orchard. Many of the blueberry bushes closer to the overstocked gift shop and outdoor play area were already picked over by pint-sized sprouts. This approach allowed for quick work in collecting the best possible berry. Of course, I couldn’t help but sample a few for “quality purposes” along the way. Our focus later shifted to picking raspberries located just a few steps down the hill. Harvesting those red jewels were a significantly more delicate process. I had to leverage every ounce of patience not to let my monstrous hands crush the berries between my fingers.

With what seemed like a matter of minutes was actually several hours. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. As if the berries weren’t reward enough, I decided to grab a quick scoop of ice cream to cool off from the burning sun. All while Barb eyed up a large basket of discounted peaches perfect for canning.

Nearly three-fourths of the berries ended up in my freezer. They are now just waiting for the day when I start craving their tangy rustic flavor in future recipes. I then combined the remaining bounty with a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar to create a deep purple sauce. It was a perfect Independence Day dessert when poured over angel food cake and topped with whipped cream I purchased from the orchard bakery.

If you ever have the time to visit a local orchard to pick your own fruit, I highly encourage you to take advantage of the experience. It’s incredibility rewarding in so many ways.


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