Picking blueberries in June

Picking blueberries in June

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

picking blueberries
Perfect ripe juicy blueberries

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.

picking blueberries - fill the bucket
filling a bucket with blueberries

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.

Picking blueberries - sugar hill blueberries, belleview
Weighing in U-pick organic blueberries at Sugar Hill Blueberries in Belleview

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.

picking blueberries - drying blueberries
Drying blueberries on paper towels. Do not wash them, this is getting rid of natural moisture.

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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Farmers markets on a Saturday morning

Farmers markets on a Saturday morning

What are you doing Saturday morning? Here’s an idea – let’s go to the Fernandina Farmers Market, held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I like those hours. You don’t have to get up early to get the good stuff. Parking is free and plentiful.

farmers markets - fernandina Beach
farmers market – fernandina Beach
farmers markets -  fernandina beach
farmers market fernandina beach

Located at the corner of Centre Street and 7th Street north, right in the heart of Fernandina Beach’s historic district, on June 6th the blueberry growers are expected to start showing up. Yes, it is blueberry season! One June 13, the Sweet Grass Cow & Goat Cheeses will be one of the booths.

Always there are landscape plants for sale, many native plants and beautiful blooming things that I want to take home with me. You’ll find prepared foods for lunch, Growers Alliance organic shade bean coffee (yes, they give sample coffee drinks!), honey vendors, craft persons and often live music.

Ah, what a great way to start a Saturday morning. In my book “50 Great Walks in Florida”, Chapter 11 is A Stroll Through History: The Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach Centre Street Stroll and Chapter 12 is Nature’s Classroom: Willow Pond Nature Trail, Fort Clinch State Park

Farmers Markets in Gainesville and more

Saturday mornings in Gainesville let’s visit the Alachua County Farmers’ Market, the only Grower’s Only Market in North-Central Florida (that is a lot of “only”). All the produce is grown within 50 miles of the market and you get the meet the farmer.

This is “buy local” taken seriously. The market is in an open-air metal pavilion. Hours are every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until the produce is gone, whichever comes first. If you are going to GPS it, the address is 5920 N.W. 13th Street, Gainesville.

Then take a walk in Kanapaha Botanical Gardens (Chapter 16: Wander through a Garden of Eden) and take a gander at the historic buildings on the University of Florida campus (Chapter 15: A Walk on the Gothic Side)

Saturday Summer Market is a big attraction in downtown St. Petersburg, starting Saturday, June 6 and continuing every Saturday through September 16. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Location is the Mahaffey Theater parking garage, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg.

What you’ll find: regular and organic produce and fruit, baked goods, plants, flowers orchids, fresh herbs, prepared foods and hand-crafted wares. Fun!

St. Pete is a Bonus Point in Chapter 34: A Walk for Everyone: Fort DeSoto County Park, Tierra Verde.

South over the Skyway bridge and into Sarasota, the downtown Saturday Market takes over two blocks between the hours of 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. A full slate of 70 vendors, from Maggi’s, famous for seafood, to Java Dog, best latte in town, to hand made clothes and plants for your garden, plus great selection of organic produce, all grown locally.
Downtown Market happens in Tallahassee every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March through November. This takes place on the chain of green parks in Park Avenue Historic District, just a few blocks from the capital.
farmers markets - ybor city

This is a lively market. You’ll meet local artisans (I have a piece of fused glass all the more special because I met the artist), see lots of artwork alongside local produce and heaering live music is a given. Don’t have breakfast or lunch before you come – because you’ll find everything from muffins to soup and salad.

The chain of parks are covered in Chapter 2: Step into History: Park Avenue Historic District, Tallahassee.

For a list of community farmer’s markets all over Florida, check out this Web site.

When you go to farmer’s markets, you are supporting your local economy, getting an artistic eyeful and having an adventure.

Who said there was nothing to do in the summertime? Sure there is. Spend your morning at a farmer’s market then open up your copy of my book. Great walks are calling. Enjoy

Lucy Beebe Tobias is the author of “50 Great Walks in Florida”, University Press of Florida, 2008, and the Authentic Florida Expert for VISIT FLORIDA.



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