Halfway through the summer, I surfaced from a sea of deskwork and found myself longing to go berry picking. I know that sounds odd. Most people on the Vineyard would be thinking about heading to the beach, going for a bike ride, jumping on a kayak.

But there is something both calming and rejuvenating about meandering outside on a sunny August afternoon with the breeze kicking up in a sort of Septemberish kind of way. Swags of goldenrod wave along roadsides, purple asters are popping open, and Queen Anne’s lace, both sturdy and dainty, begs to be plucked for flower arrangements. The air temperature is near perfect.

I admit there is no small amount of nostalgia surrounding this berry-picking thing. When I was growing up, picking beach plums was a complex family activity that involved piling into an old boat and sailing around a jetty, beaching the boat next to a shipwreck (literally) on a sandy spit of land we called Beach Plum Island, battling green horse flies and sweltering heat, and eating invariably soggy sandwiches with lukewarm Cokes for lunch.

We loved this, because it was an adventure.

There were plenty of beach plums on the dunes near our house, but we still made this trek to the place where there were nothing but beach plums as far as the eye could see.

At home, my father and grandmother made beach plum jelly, straining the boiled fruit through one of my father’s (clean) old T-shirts. In Delaware, the beach plums were usually ripe around Labor Day.

When I arrived on the Vineyard in 2008, I remember feeling at home when I walked through the dunes at Lambert’s Cove in the springtime and saw all those beach plums blossoming.

After a few years here, I moved to a place that was surrounded by berries. There were black raspberries in July, thickly entwined with the underbrush of a giant overgrown Weigela. I had never seen black raspberries and I was so enamored of them that I would dash outside in the early morning to pick the ripe ones before the birds could get them. After accumulating a cup or two, I made ice cream with them.

There were high bush blueberries scattered throughout the woods nearby, too, and often these plants, undiscovered by other humans, yielded a decent harvest. Later in the season, a cluster of blackberry canes thrust itself over an old stone wall in the far corner of the property, and again a battle with the birds ensued.

Recently I moved to a place that is literally surrounded by wild low bush blueberries. These berries (vaccinum angustifolium), which I always associated with Maine, are all over the place here in West Tisbury. Maybe that’s because they like to grow in glacial soil, along the edges of fields and forests and roadsides, and because they spread underground by rhizomes. I was so excited to find them here. I discovered them in the spring when the bell-shaped flowers appeared. When the fruits appear, they are tiny and so blue they are nearly black; they have the familiar five-point crown shape on the bottom of the berry.

The berries begin to ripen in July and continue through the early weeks of August. But by the time I got my foraging mojo going, pickings were slim. (All kinds of critters like berries.) I did not want to admit defeat though, so adorned with tick spray and dodging the poison ivy vines, I traipsed along the edge of the woods, swooping low to check under every branch and leaf.

My reward? About 25 tiny blueberries and three ripe wild blackberries.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meditative ramble. To me, this kind of activity has come to represent what I value most about living on the Vineyard — the immediate accessibility to the natural world.

But there was just one problem. I also love to cook and bake with berries and had my heart set on making Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake, Blueberry Peach Clafoutis (a custardy sweet pancake) and French toast with berry syrup. This paltry haul was not going to do it.

I went out in search of local blueberries, but I had missed the end of North Tabor Farm’s harvest. Clearly I would need to expand my notion of local. That solved the problem: First I found big plump high bush Massachusetts-grown blueberries at Norton Farm’s farm stand. And then to my delight, I found a surprise at Cronig’s (where I usually look for New Jersey-grown berries, which are far superior to California berries): Maine “wild” blueberries from an organic farm. Tiny and packed with sweet flavor, the berries were perfect in everything I baked. (Though I used the big high bush blueberries in the coffeecake and they were lovely, too.)

Maybe you are growing blueberries (some highbush varieties produce late into August), or you are a better forager than I am. But if you, like me, need to expand your notion of local berries, then please do. No matter where you get your berries, you’ll want to try this seriously tender and delicious (and easy) coffee cake recipe, which is just the thing to have around for August house guests. After that, why not try the clafoutis and the French toast, too?

Off the Menu appears in print in the Vineyard Gazette every Friday in season.