Retirement in The Villages, FL
Picking Fresh, Tasty Berries in the Spring
Fresh picked berries from the adjoining farm taste better than store bought & cost half as much.
There is much more to do in and around The Villages than the usual retirement stereotype of playing golf.
Activities within The Villages cover so many venues that they will be the subject of a future article. I will actually have to do some research to do it justice. Two cities, numerous horse farms, and museums are on the borders.
Last year, we discovered Back Road Berries, a you-pick farm.
You can pick your own fruit or buy pre-picked for a little bit more. I am pretty lazy. I always purchase pre-picked if it is available.
Berries are usually available about 7 months of the year. They taste so much different than those from the store.
Last week, I had to pick my own blackberries for the first time. When I arrived, the entire parking lot was full. I had to race someone to get the next-to-the-last spot nearest the stand.
I was reluctant.
I had a blackberry patch at my house in Indiana. It was a glob of intertwined branches covered with at least 10,000 thorns. The berries were in the middle. My wife used to pick berries along the road in Georgia before we met. She put old nylon stockings on her arms to avoid the thorns.
Those were wild berries.
These plants are 6-feet tall, staked in nice, neat rows, and as you can see in the left-hand picture at the top, have no thorns. The rows are about 12 to 18 inches thick, so I could reach the berries from either side.
Blackberries go from green to red to dark purple as they ripen. You can be fooled by almost ripe berries. They are still sour, unlike the sweet, ripe berries. Ripe berries come off with a very slight tug vs. almost ripe berries that have to be pulled pretty hard.
Even though many people were there, we still had plenty to pick.
Some of the berries are as big as ping pong balls! I have to restrain myself from picking more than we can eat in a week.
Blackberries start to ripen in the latter part of May and continue through June.
I had hoped to get a couple of pounds of blueberries, but this was the last week of their season.
Blueberries grow on bushes about 4-feet tall, without thorns. They are very easy to pick.
Blueberries, like all berries, tend to get smaller near the end of the season. They are also much smaller than the blackberries, as you can see in the right-hand picture at the top. You have to pick a lot more of them to get one pound.
I didn’t make it. I wound up with three servings. Since berries are my wife’s favorite, she will get the last serving of blueberries tonight, and I will have to eat grapes.
Blueberries start to ripen in April and continue through most of May.
Strawberry season is over. It started in December and ran through March.
I bought all of our strawberries this year, except for the one time that they were out. That was the first time that I had picked any berries. It was not as bad as I expected. I wound up with about 4 pounds in 15 minutes.
Strawberries do not grow on bushes. The plants hug the ground with the berries usually ripening under the leaves. The farmer planted them at the top of mounded rows so that the berries kind of hang down. They are easy to see and pick that way.
Unlike the blackberry and blueberry bushes that continue to grow from year to year, the farmer plowed the strawberry plants under and replanted. I was surprised since my grandparents never did that with their strawberry patch.
Not all berries are the same. If you count carbs for medical or other reasons, strawberries are 8% vs. 12% for blackberries vs. 14% for blueberries. In other words, 16 oz. (1 pound) of strawberries = 10 2/3 oz. of blackberries = 9 oz. of blueberries.
I priced my berries at the store when I went shopping the next day. The grocery store berries cost twice as much.
The berry farm also sells jams and small blueberry cheese cakes made from their berries.
Other Fruits and Vegetables
After I got home from picking berries, we went to the farmer’s market that The Villages sponsors at the Brownwood town square every Saturday.
That square is the farthest from our house, but the fresh produce is worth it, and it costs less than the local grocery.
Some items are not even available in the stores.
You have to get there by mid-morning or they may run out of your favorite things, like carrots this week.
They also have other booths that sell crafts.
On the way home, we stopped at the local fruit stand for grapefruits and oranges, which are plentiful in Florida.
We are not vegetarians, but we eat a lot of fresh vegetables.
They are wonderful coming right out of the garden or farm.
Other articles about Retirement in The Villages:
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How we saved $11,400 doing some tasks ourselves and using points during the move and remodel, once we decided where to live.Saving for Retirement and Beyond, Stress Free, starting at ANY Age, even if You are Retired
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