When it comes to buying non-traditional (odd) ingredients for brewing I tend to skip the homebrew store and shop at the places that specialize in them, spices at spice stores, weird sugars at ethnic markets, fruit at farmers markets etc... Yesterday morning I walked over to the local farmers market (during halftime of the England Germany match) to buy some fruit. The Takoma Park Farmers Market isn't as big as some of the other ones around DC, but located just a few blocks from my house it is more than convenient. I've found that in terms of price and especially quality that buying fruit at farmers markets is the way to go over supermarkets.
I picked up 2 qrts of sour cherries, and 1 qrt each of blackberries and black raspberries. The big argument for purees/juice is that they are more consistent than fresh fruit, but when you taste beers made from fruit like this there is no comparison between it and the processed/packaged/pasteurized products.
Despite buying all this fruit, at the moment I don't have any beers ready for it, so I froze it all. A quick freeze is important if your goal is to preserve the delicate cell structure of the fruit, but when adding fruit to beer I actually want the cells beat up to give the yeast/bacteria easy access to the sugars within. Vacuum-packing the fruit is the best option for long term storage in the freezer, but with such delicate fruit the pressure of the suction will actually squeeze juice out of the fruit if you don't freeze it first. I also gave the fruit a quick rinse in cold water before freezing so it is ready to use after defrosting.
I'll probably combine the blackberries and black raspberries in a Flanders Red (the blackberry Flanders Red I brewed ~4 years ago is still one of my favorite batches). Some/all the sour cherries might find their way into half of my Berliner Lambic in a couple months. I try to buy all of my fruit for a year's worth of sour fruit beers in the summer, so I may have to go back and pick up some more in the next few weeks.
On a different note my friend Devin just picked up 4 lbs of frozen soursop at a Asian market to add to the pale sour he and I brewed a few months ago. I've never tasted it, but the Wikipedia description makes it sound like a great addition to the beer "A combination of strawberry and pineapple with sour citrus flavor notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana."
Speaking of local ingredients, I'm also having great luck with my first year hop plants. The rhizomes were given to me by Roy (a homebrewer who lives on Capital Hill). Considering it isn't even July yet and they are just covered with burs and cones I'd say they are having a great first year. They get much more sun than the 5th year plants that are still growing at my parents' house, so I am worried about how they will do in the high heat of the DC summer. The cascade on the left is in the lead but the Goldings (I think that's what they are) on the right is doing pretty well. Hopefully I'll get enough to do a fresh hop harvest ale of some kind in a month or two.
Anybody out there doing any fruit buying, or hop growing?