The Mat-Su region of Alaska is a great place to go berry picking.
The area has a long growing season, which makes it ideal for berries. Some of the most popular to pick in the Mat-Su region include wild blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and wild cranberries.
Here are some tips for harvesting berries in the Mat-Su region:
- Go berry picking early in the morning. Berries are at their sweetest and most flavorful in the morning, before the sun has had a chance to heat them up.
- Wear long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from insects. The Mat-Su region can be home to mosquitoes, black flies, and other biting insects.
- Waterproof boots are a good idea depending on where you are picking. By the time berries are ripe, it is well into the rainy season.
- Do not go alone, and tell someone the general area you plan to be in for the day.
- Bring bear spray if you are not comfortable carrying a gun. It is not uncommon to encounter bears or other wildlife gorging themselves to fatten up for the winter.
- Use a basket or bucket to collect your berries. A small, shallow basket is ideal for picking berries, as it will allow you to get close to the ground and avoid damaging the plants.
- Be gentle when picking. Don’t pull on the berries, as this can damage the plants. Instead, use your fingers to gently twist them off of the stem. Raspberries in particular come away without force when ripe.
- Leave some berries for the wildlife. Don’t pick all of the berries from a bush, as this will deprive other animals of food.
Once you’ve harvested your berries, you’ll need to decide how you want to preserve them.
- Freezing: Freezing is a great way to preserve berries for long periods of time. Simply wash the berries and remove any stems or leaves. Then, spread the berries out on a baking sheet and freeze for several hours. Once the berries are frozen solid, you can transfer them to a freezer bag or container.
- Canning: Canning is another popular method for preserving berries. This method involves heating the berries to a high temperature and then sealing them in jars. Canning can be a bit more time-consuming than freezing, but it is a good way to preserve berries for long periods of time.
- Jams and jellies: Jams and jellies are a delicious way to preserve berries. To make jams and jellies, you will need to cook the berries with sugar and pectin. This will create a thick, spreadable mixture that can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Dehydrate or freeze dry: Both dehydrated and freeze-dried raspberries can be enjoyed as snacks, added to cereals, oatmeal, trail mixes, or used in various recipes. Keep in mind that freeze-drying is a more specialized process and requires specific equipment, while dehydrating can be done using a dehydrator or an oven.
No matter how you choose to preserve your berries, you’re sure to enjoy them for months to come. So get out there and start picking!
Here are some additional tips for preserving berries in the Mat-Su region:
- If you’re freezing berries, be sure to wash them thoroughly and remove any stems or leaves. This will help to prevent the berries from getting freezer burn.
- If you’re canning berries, be sure to use a tested recipe. This will help to ensure that the berries are safe to eat.
- When making jams and jellies, be sure to follow the recipe carefully. This will help to prevent the jams and jellies from being too runny or too thick.
- Store your preserved berries in a cool, dark place. This will help to keep them fresh for longer.
With a little planning, you can enjoy fresh, local berries all year long.