I take back everything I said about needing to involve kids in garden and kitchen chores. Well, not everything. But involving kids can sometimes be frustratingly counter-productive and downright messy, even when it yields a few pints of very good mixed berry ice cream.
Well-meaning parents, across the region, might send their kids off to summer programs on the farm (like those at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island) or those on the water (like Fish Camp from Flying Point Surf School in Southampton), or otherwise involve the family in the ripening food experiences around us. But that doesn’t mean certain activities aren’t inappropriate.
A two-year old can’t reliably plant a row of beans, I recently learned. And while a 3-year old can plant part of a row, she is still subject to whimsy and might start free-form-seeding a crop that is supposed to go in a straight line. My children can reliably pick potatoes, but they also like to throw potatoes. In blunt agronomic terms, kids can encourage post-harvest loss.
In the case of berry picking, you quickly learn that you must somehow pick fruit faster than they can eat fruit. One distraction tactic is to give each child in the picking group their own container and encourage them to “Fill it up. So we can make ice cream.” The kids will inevitably pick hand-to-mouth, holding the container limply in their other hand. Then, you pick as fast as you possibly can. The strategy isn’t fool proof because when they have picked clean the bushes at their height, they are apt to see how many berries you are picking and beg for a few of yours.
We did manage to ferret away in the freezer a couple quarts of berries picked in a few haphazard pickings. And last night, I mixed them with some whole milk from a local dairy, six egg yolks, Organic Valley heavy cream, crème fraiche from Cavaniola’s, sugar and maple syrup. The kids were nipping at my heels, and stole a few frozen berries, until our clunky electric ice cream mixer’s groaning scared them off. There was some sampling of the ice cream at breakfast this morning (“Very good,” was the verdict from Clio). We we’ll wait for dinner for full servings. Because patience is a virtue, and if you want ice cream, you’ve got to pick the berries first.
And, speaking of seasonal ice cream, don’t forget the second annual Ice Cream Sunday at the New Amsterdam Market this Sunday, Aug. 21.