Saturday, July 24, 2010

The wrong kind of help

Yesterday I took possession of a 30-pound box of beautiful Jersey blueberries. We look forward to blueberry day with great anticipation around here. This is the third year we have had the opportunity to buy this large quantity at a great price. A friend of a friend knows someone who grows berries, or something like that. In any case, we get berries.

But this year something was different. The berries were washed on site before being packed up. I don't know why; I have a 3-degree separation from the grower so can't ask. I assume the grower did it to be helpful. How nice to have pre-washed berries, right? We can just open the box and eat!

Except that the wet berries were placed in a plastic bag which was then sealed in a cardboard box. Do you see a problem with this?

Blues are pretty sturdy as berries go. They have a longer shelf or fridge life than raspberries or strawberries. But once they are washed they go soft pretty quickly.

So when I opened my box of berries my heart sank a little. They were very wet. I knew I had to get them out of there right away. Usually I have at least 2 - 3 days before I have to make my way through the whole box, washing, sorting, and freezing. And eating! Eating beautiful fresh berries. But not this time.

So after dinner we put towels out on the kitchen table and started setting the berries to dry. At least the table was clear so we didn't have to declutter it before spreading out the towels! We covered the entire table. 30 pounds of blueberries is a lot!

As we spread we sorted through them to discard the bad ones. There were many more than in past years. Lots of soft squishy broken sad berries. We found that the towels were soaking through so we had to move things around to change them out. As we got some berries dry, we loaded up the cookie sheets to put in the freezer.

Sorting took a long time. As I sorted, I pondered the true cost of this fruit. The berries were cheap, much cheaper than I can buy them in any store. But there was so much waste! Of course with fresh produce there is always waste, but this was a lot. Then there is the time to dry and sort. (Oh wait, I'm a stay-at-home mom; my time has no value!) Then there are all those towels to wash. Water, electricity, more time.

Once again I assume the grower was trying to help. Maybe some customers requested that the berries be washed ahead of time. Maybe the ladies getting ready to make jam and can pie filling like omitting the washing step. Maybe I'm just too fussy and too critical. I'm sure that I've made mistakes trying to help someone, or inconvenienced someone in the effort to help another. We all just have to do our best and we can't please everyone.

Still, I am not sure I'll order a box next year, not unless I can be sure the berries won't be washed. I feel disloyal to this farmer I don't even know for thinking that way. How sad for him if he loses some customers in an effort to please others.

In any case, we enjoyed our cobbler last night! And we have berries for a year, and that is truly something to be thankful for.

1 comment:

SmallWorld at Home said...

NEVER heard of a grower washing fruit first! That is crazy!