This month has been fabulous for blueberries in the Willamette Valley: A few weeks of sun followed by rainy days then again by more sun. Usually, blueberries are shriveled by the end of July and it’s time for blackberry picking. This year was great for fruit in general. It’s almost August and there are still ripe raspberries in my own backyard. My chickens are stealing grapes off the vine. Raccoons have been knocking down more apples that shouldn’t be ripe for a few more weeks. Even the Asian pears are early.
The Practical Herbalist team threw our baskets into a wagon and trotted down the road to the local blueberry farm. Even with blueberry bushes growing in our own yards, The U-pick only charges $1.85/# for the sweetest berries in the valley. We’d be fools if we didn’t load up our freezers now.
Patrick and Candace are much more industrial than I am. They dry fruit for snacking while I only freeze it. We both lay berries on wax paper lined cookie sheets to freeze before putting them in bulk containers for the rest of the year. No one wants to spend Christmas Eve chipping away at a solid block of blueberries for holiday pies.
Blueberries make excellent jam and cordial. I wait until the season picks up a chill before starting kitchen projects like that. No one wants to spend a 90 degree day, bending over a boiling pot of preserves. After I’m done canning jam, I’ll set aside a few baggies of blueberries just for making smoothies. Only a handful add a lot of flavor to our yogurt based drinks.
Blueberries are easy to pick. the bushes are about 6 feet tall. Patrick, Candace, and I wandered between the bushes, popping the biggest, darkest, and juiciest berries into our baskets. Just holding a bucket under a branch and running your hand along the stem was good enough. The steady plop, plop, plop of berries hitting the basket let us know where we were in the field.
Once the wagon was full, we weighed out our harvest, paid the elderly couple who own the farm, and walked back. The sun was warming the air gently. I sipped the remains of the coffee Patrick had brewed earlier that morning. Our blueberry summer had begun.