August in brims with chances to pick your own fruit … and, as in generations past, to make your own jams, jellies, marmelades and preserves from summer’s bounty.
Not everyone has a family member or friend versed in the art of jelly-making, but the agritourism program within the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry can help people find, pick and can fruit. Fruit and berries aren’t the only options; herbs, tea, wine, liqueurs, vegetables and flowers can also be transformed into gelatinous goodness.
Agritourism coordinator Michaela Danker, who works with wineries and farms across the state, says strawberry and blueberry seasons usually end by July, but harvests in and after August include grapes and peaches. (For instance, peaches usually last through early autumn at Livesay Orchards in Porter.) You can stock up on those fruits at farmers markets, pick-your-own fruit farms and wineries, many of which offer on-site canning lessons.
The Jelly Making Trail map (at oklahomaagritourism.com/trails/jelly-making-trails) breaks the state into regions and offers harvest and class details. On the Sweet-n-Sticky Trail in Northeastern Oklahoma, you can head to the hamlet of Osage and find Tchinina Rayburn and her family’s organic Three Fruits and a Veggie Farm, with its variety of heirloom vegetables and fruit, including elderberries, blackberries and old-fashioned currants.
“We do the jam and jelly classes here at the farm and we produce it to sell as well,” Rayburn says. “We pick our own fruit, but, if not in season, we go to other Oklahoma farmers and make jelly from their fruits and give them credit as growers on our label.”
Recent years have seen a resurgence in preserving food, especially jams and jellies, she says.
“The age group with the most interest are the later millennials – people in their 30s and 40s,” Rayburn says. “I think it’s because they remember their grandparents doing it. A lot of my generation, above age 40 … we went to work instead of preserving food. Now many people are wanting to reconnect with nature and their family history, and we teach them how to take food and preserve it and do it in a fun way.”
Farms on the Jelly Making Trail offer a variety of features; the Rayburn farm has classrooms, a commercial kitchen and facilities for reunions and farm-to-table events, and campsites for visitors.
“We encourage people to check out our demonstration plots so they can see how to grow food, how to pick the harvest in season,” Rayburn says. “We can show how to cook it or you can take it with you. We just love showing how to homestead and how some things last.
“This is a family affair for us, as three generations live here, and we’re so blessed to share our focus on community, sustainability and health.”