Yumm. June is here and that means the time has arrived to get it in gear and get out the buckets. They won’t be empty for long. This is the season to pick blueberries.
Picking Blueberries and the month of June go together
What is it about these small, juicy purple morsels? One is not enough. Blueberries are both addictive and good for you, a perfect combination. Eating one blueberry leads to another to another and before long you have a purple face. The whole experience of devouring blueberries is rather like a chocolate binge but without the guilt. One cup of blueberries has 80 calories. What is not to like?
For my family and friends the taste of blueberries becomes extra sweet because we have a yearly ritual of gathering together to go on an adventure and pick blueberries. Somehow when you pick them yourself it improves the flavor.
To find a blueberry farm near you check out http://www.pickyourown.org This Web site lists all kinds of produce places to go in a number of states. Especially across Central Florida the list of blueberry farms is long. The ones that are organic have the word “organic” highlighted in green. We’ve picked organic blueberries at farms in both Marion and Alachua counties.
Picking blueberries is a prime time family affair and so is growing them. B&G Blueberries off County Road 315 past Silver Springs is a perfect example. “B” stands for Bill Hall and “G” stands for Gail Hall.
Picking blueberries at B&G Blueberries is a family project
Here is what Bill said about how it all began:
“I started u-picking Rabbit Eye blueberries in 1983. At that time my two sons Danny and Jason were 12 and 7 and they assisted my mother Margaret Hall keeping the patch open Mon-Friday and Gail, Danny, Jason and I worked it on Saturday. My mother required the boys to pick 10 lbs. per day during the season.
Today their wives and six children are paid helpers on days we U-Pick. This year we spent a lot of time cross training the four older ones. There are six different jobs they do when we are open for u-pick. The six grand kids are ages 8 to 15. I always list them and their parents on the card we send to our customers.”
And here are their names – The Halls, Bill, Gail, Danny, Dorothy, Justin Micah, Rebekah, Ben, Jason, Robin, Savannah and EmmaLee. To get directions call (352) 236-4410 or Email: [email protected]
Their picking dates in June are June 12, 18, 19, 25,26 and t hen July 3,5,10. Price is $2.50 per pound.
Close to Fort McCoy is the Bay Lake Blueberry Farm owned by Mike & Gail Waldron. This is a certified organic U pick and that means no pesticides! Good for your tummy, good for Mother Earth. The day we were there the Waldron’s daughters were helping customers carry their blueberries to the car and Gail’s mother in law was in charge of the cash register. Truly a family affair. Phone: 352-546-3834. Address: 20525 Highway 315, Ft. McCoy, Fl. and E mail: [email protected]
In addition to picking blueberries Bay Lake has blueberry plants for sale along with local produce. We like to do this U pick early in the morning, then all go out for breakfast together. It is the food, fellowship and fun thing in action.
Live in Marion County? For more on picking blueberries in Marion County see the blog by Lucy Beebe Tobias and Sandra Friend entitled Ocala Adventures.
Now let’s get down to some specifics. Be an early riser for blueberry picking, so much easier in the cool of the day. Call ahead and find out when they open. Have the address and a map or use a GPS. Many farms are off the beaten path.
When you are there the farm supplies buckets for picking usually with rope so it can go around your waist and you have two hands free. Bring your own buckets in case you need them to put the berries in for the trip home.
Wear closed toed shoes for walking down the rows. A hat highly advised and bring water. Carry cash, this is not a credit card transaction. Most farms will have other things too – blueberry plants for sale, local produce and more.
This is a great inter-generational adventure. Various sizes of children work well with finding blueberries at different parts of the bushes (that can grow five six feet tall). Little ones pick the bottom, taller ones get the middle and adults find the ones on top.
Go for the fully ripe deep purple berries. Taste one before you start on a bush. If you like the flavor, that bush is for you. Pick them off one at a time. Don’t strip off unripe berries. It doesn’t take long to fill up a gallon bucket.
At home lay out paper towels and spread out the berries. Pick out any unripe ones. DO NOT wash them as they become mushy.
When any natural moisture has dried, bag them up a cup or two at a time and freeze. Set aside a good amount for yummy eating right now – straight, on cereal, in muffins, pie and even ice cream.
Here is Bill Hall’s favorite recipe for blueberry ice cream (one gallon)
2 pints blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
About ½ gallon whole milk
Take two pints blueberries, place in saucepan and cover with water. Add one cup of sugar and boil for five minutes. Let stand on stove until completely cooled. Strain directly into the churn cylinder. Pour remaining peels and liquid into blender. Blend then pour into churn cylinder. Add condensed milk and one tablespoon vanilla flavoring. Finish filling churn cylinder with whole milk. Sir and churn.
Ah, going to pick blueberries satisfies the prime ingredients for a good time – food, fellowship and fun. Grab your buckets and go!
Lucy Beebe Tobias is an author and writer. Her Web site is: http:www.LucyTobias.com
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