As summer dwindles down to the last days of August, certain traditions signify it's almost time to head back to school. Blueberry picking was always among the less obvious family activities, more subtle than purchasing pointy new Crayolas. Fruit topped desserts, berry vinaigrettes and sweet garnishes bursting with flavor are making their way onto plates across Cleveland. It's officially berry season.
Northeast Ohioans who want to support local farming and try their hand at freezing, canning or eating fresh fruit straight from the source can visit these convenient locations, all within an hour of the city. Sustainable local farming ensures that visitors will take home fresh fruit in bulk for only a few bucks and have a Pinterest-perfect time doing it.
Not all farms are created equal. These few are off the beaten path and all let you pick your own to get a taste for harvesting fruit firsthand. Call in advance before setting out as this activity is dependent on weekly harvests and good weather.
Baumhart Berry Farm
2200 Baumhart Rd., Vermilion, 440-984-0141, baumhartberryfarm.com.
Described as a countryside oasis, this Vermilion farm offers PYO blueberries for just $3.10 per pound. Later in August blackberries also will be available. Talk about local! Chez Francois, also in Vermilion, sources berries for their summer menu through Baumhart. The berry farm also has a wide variety of u-pick flowers and herbs such as lavender available at their store. Their website has tons of recipes and articles citing the powerful health benefits of blueberries.
Greenfield Berry Farm 2485 Major Rd., Peninsula, 330-657-2924, greenfieldberryfarm.com.
This farm, within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is a Countryside Initiative Farm and also operates as a CSA (community supported agriculture) with shares continuing through autumn. They'll have blueberries and red raspberries for the public to pluck, as well as garlic and sunflowers until September. A portion of sales goes directly back to the National Park system.
Quarry Hill Orchards 8403 Mason Rd., Berlin Heights, 419-588-2858, quarryhillorchards.com.
Apples, peaches, plums, oh my! Quarry Hill has a variety of fruits that others in the area do not. While PYO-cherry season has come to a close, PYO-peach and apple season is just gearing up. Nectarines and plums will also be available for purchase on the property, along with pears as they become available in early September. If you can't get out to Quarry Hill, The Grocery OHC has been known to carry their fruit.
Rittman Orchards 13548 Mt. Eaton Rd., Doylestown, 330-925-4152, rittmanorchards.com.
While Rittman's PYO berry season is officially over, get ready for PYO apples in September. Available at their store now are pre-packaged red raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches. The farm also features special pies of the month at their bakery (August is peach), and staff is working hard on a new line of artisan hard ciders and wines debuting soon. If you can't fit in the 45-minute drive to Doylestown, Coquette Patisserie concocts a variety of sweets using Rittman berries.
Rosby Berry Farm & Greenhouse 42 East Schaaf Rd., Brooklyn Heights, 216-661-6102, rosbycompanies.com.
These guys specialize exclusively in red raspberries on this 16-acre farm, but you may have to wait a little longer to reap the rewards here. Raspberries at Rosby's won't ripen for a week or two; however, they'll last clear into October. This Brooklyn Heights patch is just five miles from downtown Cleveland, so there's no excuse for not making your way out to their garden center this year. They also produce their own soils and mulches, and sell pickling cucumbers and pumpkins.