Something worth more

Picking berries in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, June 2015

Backyard fruit pickers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, June 2015

“I work hard in the orchard, not for the money anymore, but for something I can’t explain. Something worth more than money.”Steven Herrick

I have only faint childhood memories of occasionally picking fruit.  I recall muscadines, and plums, and the blackberries that grew in the wild bushes surrounding the pond behind our home.  One year my mother planted strawberries, but we didn’t grow enough of them to keep up with my appetite.  I had fantasies about growing watermelons.

I read stories in children’s novels about people who picked all sorts of tasty fruits– apples and cherries and peaches and citrus.  My parents talked of our home in the Texas border town where I had been born, and how they could pick grapefruit right off the tree.  I wondered with envy what it must be like to have such bounty close at hand, free for the taking.

It would be more than forty years before I found out. In northern California our next door neighbor had nearly a dozen fruit trees, including pomegranates, mandarins, and Sorrento lemons.  He told us to pick all we wanted, because he did not eat any of the fruit. The more we picked them, the more they grew.

We had fresh lemonade about ten months of the year every year, because Jeff liked making it and got very good at just enough sugar. It was a couple of years before I realized I had experienced the first winters in my memory without catching a single cold.  Of all the things I miss about California, I think those sunny fresh lemons are near the top of my list.

Do you have fruit trees nearby, or orchards where you love to go and pick fresh fruit?  If so, send us some  delicious details so we can enjoy a virtual treat. It might even inspire us to visit the grocery store for a less-tasty substitute.  For those of you who are able to pick fresh fruits and berries, enjoy them!  I agree with Herrick; they are worth more than money.



  1. Sheila

    Fresh vegetables, fresh fruit…..ANYTHING fresh is my favorite! We have so many produce stands here, seems they’re on every corner. When a lady told me last week at a stand, “Our corn is in!” she meant it was being picked in their farm fields. 🌽🌽Yummy! We have peach orchards that we love to visit close to Willow Tree. 🍑🍑 My favorite would have to be tomatoes. 🍅🍅 I can always count on Piggly Wiggly to have FIRST of everything! I loved the visual of Jeff making lemonade 🍋🍋 and also the young girl, Julia, eating strawberries.🍓🍓 My childhood was filled with summer days of picking anything from a vine, including cucumbers and beans. Oh, I also picked up fresh potatoes from the soil. Some of my fondest memories! Golden blog! 💛

    • Sheila, I love, love, love fresh corn right out of the field. Jeff’s Daddy used to grow this wonderful white corn that was so delicious. Corn on the cob is a favorite of mine, and so are any kind of field peas, limas or butter beans. I always loved to eat Mama and Daddy’s purple-hull peas that were just picked a few hours before dinner. But tomatoes are the all time favorites. If I could somehow manage to keep the squirrels out I’d grow tomatoes every year. Our neighbors built a neat little pen for their tomato plants but I somehow think the squirrels would manage to find their way into ours if we did the same thing. I remember digging potatoes in my PaPa’s garden, and I loved doing that — it was like hunting Easter Eggs! I have a post coming up soon about picking vegetables. It must be the time of year — fresh produce on my mind! I just ducked into Kroger for a few minutes and came home with nectarines, red grapes, some BEAUTIFUL cherries and a lovely lemon. Summer is wonderful, isn’t it? Race you to the Verandah – my tea mug is covered so it won’t spill when I run!

  2. Carolyn

    I would love to have some fruit trees. I do have a fig tree and 3years ago it did great, but not to good since. I used to love figs now I can’t stand them. Thanks chemo! I have plenty on the tree now,green, Terry gave me a ripe one to eat, no way, I will try to make some preserves when they get ripe. Maybe I will like that . When Jennifer lived in San Diego, a friend would give her lemons and they were great. I miss going to California but hope they don’t get station there again. To far away, N.C. Much closer. How are things going? Give hugs to Jeff and Matt and they can give you one back. Love to all.

    • Hi Carolyn, we are doing OK. Jeff is fighting cachexia and we are trying to think positive and not get too discouraged. Pretty soon he will weigh less than I do if we can’t stop the weight loss. He is eating as much as he can stand to eat, but so far it isn’t helping much. Keep those prayers coming.

      If Jennifer and family can manage to stay in the Carolinas they will have no shortage of good fresh produce. Nothing can beat CA and the San Joaquin Valley when it comes to fresh fruits and veggies, but the South can come pretty close. Hey, now that you mention figs…I recall when I was a little girl, Mama taking us to see an elderly couple from church. I even recall their names. When my little brother and I went out in the back yard, the man picked figs for us. That was my first and only time to eat figs anywhere but in Fig Newtons. I can’t remember if I liked them or not (though I love Fig Newtons) but I remember being tickled pink by the novelty of it.

      Hope you are having a good week. Love and hugs to you both.

      • Carolyn

        Thanks for the update. Praying always! Hugs to all.

        • Thank you Carolyn. 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. Nothing here. Left it all behind when I left California too. 😦

    • Oh, well, at least we have the memories…”nothing can take that away from us.” 😀

  4. Our lemon tree finally started to bear fruit two years ago, probably half a dozen years after we planted it. Mike and I enjoyed a glass of lemon water every morning for several months. The tree is a dwarf, so produces less than the one you mention, but the lemons were delicious. I started buying them at the store when they were gone, but they just weren’t the same.

    We also have a plum tree, but the rats and squirrels picked it clean while we were traveling. You win some, you lose some.

    • Alys, I have debated about trying to grow a dwarf lemon here, keeping it in our sunroom over the winter. The opinions seem mixed as to whether or not it could work. I have gotten totally hooked on putting whole sections of lemon (minus the peel) into my hot or iced tea, or sparkling water, and then just eating the lemon when I get finished with the drink. Even in childhood I used to eat lemons, and people thought I was crazy. Having them in the tea for awhile really takes the acidic edge off them, plus they add such wonderful flavor to water or tea. YUM! Yes, gardening is about like hitting in baseball…anything over .250 is acceptable, and we can’t possibly hope to bat over .400, but the game is worth it even when we lose. Better luck next year with the plums. We have a plum tree for strictly ornamental purposes; I have no idea whether the fruit is edible. It’s so tiny (each one about the size of a marble) so I doubt it.

      • Julia, I suppose you could try growing one and just see how it goes. They smell wonderful in bloom and produce those wonderful lemons.

        • Alys, I do intend to try it once we are spending more time in York Co. I think the sun room might be our best hope of getting a lemon tree to survive.

  5. Amy

    We loved all the fresh stuff in CA. I miss strawberries and avocado’s. Oh I can’t name all the good stuff I miss. Stephen’s cousin lives in AZ and we used to go over and pick grapefruit and oranges from his trees. YUM. I didn’t grow up on a farm and I am never enamored of u pick it because it’s messy and back breaking. 🙂 Praying all is well for you and yours. I love you.

    • Amy, I am guessing that picking is easier for kids since they don’t have to reach very far down 😀 and don’t mind sitting down in the dirt and getting clothes messed up. Also it needs to be good weather for picking, not too hot and not too cold. I wish I could pick grapefruit. I could easily eat both halves of a chilled grapefruit every day for breakfast or even dessert, they are that good. We are doing OK. Love you too.

  6. We had quite a lot of fruits and vegetables and yams in our backyard including guava and a rare kind of berry. I remember how the place was frequented by the birds like parrots and even bats at night. We didn’t do anything to ward them off because there was enough and they have the right to. In a place like Kerala every yard was an orchard in those days. There will be always something to pick and eat.
    Beautiful green, green pic. By the way, what fruit are they picking? You have brushed up a lot of my memories. Let me stop before I start rambling.

    • Bindu, that sounds wonderful. We had guava juice a lot in Hawaii, though I rarely ate the fruit itself. I think the birds and parrots and even the bats would be almost as fun as the fruit itself. That’s the way I feel about rabbits and squirrels; even when they eat our plants up, I love having them come around.

      I couldn’t tell for sure what kind of fruit they were picking. It was a small red berry, maybe a gooseberry, although the leaves of the tree didn’t really look like gooseberry to me. Perhaps it was some sort of plum or other berry I’m not familiar with. In Lancaster County there are all sorts of delicious things grown locally. I’m glad you have memories of Kerala to refresh you through the hot dry summer. I hope someday to see that beautiful state in person.

  7. HarryS

    “The more we picked them, the more they grew.”
    Is that the way it is in sharing God’s blessings, His fruits?
    I read you every morning my dear.

    • Thank you Harry. Yes, it’s really true that we can never out-give God, who keeps the blessings rolling in no matter what. I’m happy you are here with us!

  8. Good morning, Julia! I had to laugh as I remembered once growing a watermelon the size of a tangerine. I let my kids take it to school for show and tell. We pretended it was a bonsai watermelon (um, we meant to do that)!
    We do have a delightful plum tree; people tease me about the size of the fruit – “biggest blueberry I’ve ever seen” is a frequent comment. But they stop teasing once they taste them!
    And this year we seem to have a bumper crop of raspberries!

    • Susan, that’s so funny. I have never seen a watermelon that tiny. I used to save the seeds when we would eat watermelon (in those day there were hundreds of dark seeds in every melon) and I would think, surely with all these seeds I can get ONE vine to grow! But I probably was only planting them in dirt patches, never in a real garden or even a pot. Mama never showed much interest in growing watermelon though we did buy plenty of it. Did you grow your bonsai watermelon from a seed?

      About those tiny plums…I have noticed that the smallest fruit is often the best tasting. I first noticed this with strawberries, but also it seems true with watermelons, nectarines and probably others. I wonder whether the larger fruits don’t suffer from flavor dilution resulting from high-volume agricultural practice. I guess I’ve been reading The Dorito Effect too long. WHOA, a bumper crop of raspberries? What a treat! Are they hard to grow? I don’t know whether they grow here locally because I’ve never known anyone who grew any. But I’d love to have some fresh to put in the Ninja for sorbet!

      • Hi, Julia, yes, the watermelon was grown from a seed. Apparently the soul wasn’t appropriate, or we didn’t water it enough, or something. It was supposed to be a vine of real watermelons that we could eat, and the two it produced just didn’t cut it. Or at least, I didn’t cut it, as they were no larger than two thicknesses of rind!

        • Wow, I’m just impressed that you could grow anything at all from them! I was never able to get one to do so much as sprout. I began to wonder if those really were seeds packed so densely inside that sweet watermelon. I bet the tiny watermelons you grew were cute.

  9. Outside of Portland, OR we have Sauvie Island. It is a wonder of agricultural offerings, being very fertile soil. We have pocked strawberries there with our grandkids. Such fun and delicious! Beautiful place and experiences.

    • Cynthia, I had never heard of Sauvie Island until reading your comment. I looked it up, and it looks like a pick-your-own paradise! I imagine the climate is fairly ideal for it, too. One more reason why the Pacific northwest is a great place to live.

      • A coincidence that we just went there for the afternoon today, visiting Wapato Greenway on the island, a true bird haven/wildlife preserve! It was lovely, a two hour trek though a bit hot at 80+ degrees. Lushly agricultural, I could also clearly see also see three or four of our surrounding major NW snow-capped mountain peaks there. I may post some photos in my little photography blog next week. So nice you looked it up! 🙂

        • Cynthia, be sure to let me know when you post the photos. I have very little time on WP lately but if I get a reminder I will be more likely to check it out. I would love to have had those photo ops!

  10. bobmielke

    Since I’ve lived all across this country as each season enters I relate it to a growing season in other places I’ve lived. 10 years in Oregon has me craving rainier cherries and juicy Honeycrisp apples. This being the end of June I was thinking tonight of South Carolina peaches the size of softballs that you could break open and remove the pit with your bare hands. It’s time for their freestone peaches right now.

    Living in Uxbridge, MA now all I have left are the memories. When I see “Georgia” peaches on sale at my local store the size of a small lemon I laugh at them, knowing the real Georgia peaches are huge, succulent and worthy of the title, Georgia peach.

    • Bob, I’m glad you know what a true Georgia peach is like. Mama used to freeze fresh peaches in quart freezer containers, and I can remember going out to the deep freeze in the summer and getting a carton to thaw just enough to sit and eat the entire thing, icy-cold, tasty beyond compare and better than ice cream. I’ve been on a fresh cherry binge lately but I have only the grocery store varieties, which I’m sure are nothing like the ones grown in Oregon. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a Honeycrisp apple, but I do know there is a world of difference in a really good apple and the bland grocery-store sort. In New England perhaps you can find some fresh blueberries and cranberries to take the sting out of being so far from other local specialties. I have to discipline myself not to buy up bags of Vermont maple sugar — I like to eat it straight out of the bag!

      • bobmielke

        I’ve tried the local fruit from New England but it doesn’t hold a candle to that which I had in Oregon or South Carolina. I won’t eat their peaches or apples here. I too have been eating a lot of cherries lately but the Rainier cherries from Oregon are sooooo much better. I’ve been torturing myself on watermelon here as well. The basketball size variety are edible but again, not nearly as good as the Hermiston variety from Oregon.

        • Bob, I also discovered the little round watermelons seem to be better. Just as well in my case, since I usually end up eating the whole thing (Jeff and Matt are not as enamored of watermelons as I am). Before my blood sugar levels got in the diabetic range, I used to cut the round watermelons in half and eat a half in one sitting, using the rind like a bowl and scooping it out until there was nothing but white rind inside. I had to give that up when I had to cut drastically back on sugar. But there is nothing like a cold watermelon to cool down on a hot day! Here’s hoping you will discover some really tasty fruit from somewhere this summer, to ease the loss of your West Coast treats. I can remember being in mourning for our lost California produce for the entire first year we were in Virginia. It gets better. 🙂

          • bobmielke

            Every area has its specialties. I haven’t looked too hard for the local produce yet here. Have you ever sprinkled a bit of sat on ice cold watermelon? it’s quite a treat! I don’t do it often because of my high blood pressure but every now and then I’ll treat myself to a slice prepared that way.

            • Bob, I’ve seen quite a few people salt watermelon, and they all seemed to think it was great that way. I was always such a sweet tooth that I never tried it, but perhaps I should try it sometime. I’ve been surprised to find how much I like salted caramels or kettle corn, so maybe the salty-and-sweet combo works that way with watermelon too.

    • So true about our Oregonian fruit belt, Bobmielke! Looking forward to going to Hood River area orchards. Just stopped by Sauvie Island today to get some peaches and berries and enjoy bird watching among beauties.

      • bobmielke

        The fruit loop off highway 35S from Hood River is where all the best farms are located. This time of year you’ll find a dozen great variety of cherries. The Rainier variety are yellow and plump.

        • Just reading about all this makes me want to hop a plane to Oregon. Between the fabulous hiking and the incredible produce, I doubt I would have any problem keeping fit! Or so I can tell myself from the comfort of my air-conditioned living room here in the hot summer south.

          • bobmielke

            It is a paradise to be sure. Little humidity, cool breezes, and a garden paradise. The air and water are so clean they don’t even fluoridate the water that comes from a natural source spring and reservoir.

            • My Mama was always opposed to fluoridated water (considering it both wasteful and unnecessary, and potentially toxic if we get too much fluoride from too many sources) so she would approve of that plan. Being married to a dentist I don’t get into the controversies of fluoridated water, but I do know that the fresh, naturally pure water is the best, taste-wise. I remember being surprised how good the tap water in Hawaii was, and I was told (though I don’t know whether it was true) that it was naturally filtered by lava rock.

              • bobmielke

                So called experts can’t tell us why we have autism, ADHD or learning disorders in record proportions. The fewer chemicals I put in my body the better I like it.

                • Same here. I even drink distilled water as my beverage of choice (right behind tea made with distilled water 😀 ). I can usually smell and taste chlorine in tap water.

        • Yes, thank you. 🙂

  11. My father has an amazing green-thumbs which pair nicely with my mother’s love for canning. I was very blessed to grow up helping and learning in the garden and kitchen. My grandparents had a mulberry, apricot, and apple trees on their West Virginia land as well as many wild berries. Whether picking from the garden or the wild it always created wonderful memories of time with family. The best part was sneaking a bite and then teasing each other about eating more than we were picking. Great time with family due to the slow pace and time required to collect and preserve food.

    When in California we would always attend the Santa Maria Strawberry Festival. The strawberries we picked in the field there were always sweet and delicious. Miss the fruit and farmers markets of CA! Again-great memories!

    • Fran, having a father who grew things and a mother who knew how to can them would indeed be the perfect combination. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a mulberry, but I’d like to taste one sometime. I think those memories you have of growing, preparing and eating fresh food are worth far more than many more extravagant experiences a child might remember. I had completely forgotten about the Santa Maria strawberries until you mentioned them. It was during our years there with you and other families that I learned to love nectarines. I remember checking out a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen from the tiny Vandenberg Village public library, and reading the intro “The Work at Hand” which I have always remembered. I thought of it again when I read your comment. Thinking of you with love and fond memories!

  12. Bonjour Madam Denton ❤ we haven't any fruit trees in our yard but lots have apple trees or raspberry bushes. The apples that'll grow in Northern Alberta are very small and tart. They're called crabapples. The tree's are gorgeous in the spring, but the fruit's move of a nuisance that litters your yard. You have to peel a lot of them to make a pie and then add ton's of sugar. Jim's mom had a raspberry patch and OMGosh, they are super prickly and thorny. Worth the effort though because they're expensive in the market. Hope your summer is fun so far xo Love K

    • Bonjour, Petals! Peut-etre vous êtes maintenant à Paris? If so, I hope you are having a wonderful time! I can remember eating crabapples once — I don’t remember where or when, but I did like them. I go for tart flavors. I didn’t realize raspberries were thorny. I’ll appreciate them more the next time I buy some. Summer has been nonstop intensity, but also full of so many of the usual summer joys. That card I am planning to send you (along with the photos) is still sitting in my “to do” box and eventually I will get it to you! Till then please know I think of you often, always with gratitude!

      • Enjoy summer days! I shall just plan to get it next time I swing by my dear 😀 xo ❤ K

        • Now THAT’S a fun thought! Swing by anytime! 🙂

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