I have learned from experience, blueberries are hard to grow and harvest.
They are known for their health benefits, full of antioxidants and vitamins.
Blueberries are the perfect “super”-food.
But they are expensive to buy — usually, $5–6 for a small six-ounce container. Many could easily consume the entire package, standing in the kitchen, without even remembering what we did.
They are the poster child when people say that eating healthy is too expensive.
I like blueberries, but I have never loved them. Probably a reaction to the cost, and because it’s just too easy to pop a sour berry into your mouth when you buy them out of season.
I do value their nutrition and will eat them when available. I even planted four “bushes” in my front yard. I use the word bush lightly because they are small plants and need several years before they become established and produce a significant amount of fruit. I’m also struggling to perfect the growing conditions and learned that I have a mouse outside my house that likes blueberries too.
But I live close to several farms that grow blueberries. And blueberries are an excellent crop to grow if a farmer wants to have people out to visit and see their food in action. The majority of the cost of our fruits and vegetables comes from labor at the time of harvest. Especially, fruit like berries that need to be picked by hand. Inviting the public out to your farm involves many other expenses, so it’s not a perfect situation either. Still, with a good location, it can diversify the income of a farming business. And we all know about income diversity right now.
Picking your own fruit and vegetables is a great way to get closer to nature and feed yourself in the process. It is something that everyone should do at least one time in their lives. By understanding how hard it is to grow and harvest your own food, you gain an appreciation for what it takes to get to your supermarket shelves.
I never thought about how you pick blueberries until I visited the farm to do it myself. It was late morning and already getting hot. And I learned blueberries are one of the hardest fruits to pick.
Each tiny berry is ripe at a different time, and you go to pick one, and others will fall off. You are searching each plant for the ripest berries, jumping from one plant to another, and choosing one here and then one there. Once you look at them long enough, you will realize that there is a color difference between purple and the deep blue-black that signals ripeness.
Five to ten berries won’t move the scale, so you can pop them in your mouth before you notice that you did. Eating off the plant is the fun of a you-pick farm. But when you look into your empty container, it reminds you that aren’t taking those home.
Thankfully the plants are not on the ground like strawberries, so you’re not bending over when you pick something that grows on the ground. But your body is bent at a slight angle looking over the tops of the plants, and your body tells you this isn’t like walking, standing, or sitting.
After about twenty minutes, we had had enough. We are lucky that we don’t have to drive that far, and I can chalk up the experience as a learning event.
We made off with our one pound of berries for five dollars, which is a bargain compared to the store, but we felt like we earned it.
The result is that I don’t eat blueberries every week of the year. The cost of buying berries at the store, year-round, is beyond my budget. Superfood or not.
After most of my growing and harvesting experience, I now value the work that it takes to harvest all of the fruit and vegetables that I eat. It is hard to imagine working in the field all day with no other task than to pick berries or tomatoes or kale.
By seeing the fruit growing on the plant, we can learn the process of growing and harvesting our fruits and vegetables.
Fortunately, the best part of summer is that other fruit will be available next month.
Blueberries are a treat at the end of spring. Get out there and find a U-pick farm; you will have a new appreciation for your food and those that grow it.
Here is my favorite blueberry muffin recipe.
It’s adapted from simplyrecipes.com. I cut the quantity in half so it makes only 6 muffins, added a little salt and simplified the steps to make it a little easier to throw together on a Sunday morning.
- 1 egg
- ½ cup sugar
- ¾ cup plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 & ¼ cup flour
- 1 & ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease six cups of a muffin pan with butter, baking pan spray or use paper muffin cup liners. In a mixing bowl combine the egg, sugar, yogurt, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt. Stir well to combine. In the same bowl, on top of the wet ingredients, add the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir gently until the dry ingredients are just barely mixed in. Stir in the blueberries. Add the batter to the prepared muffin cups. You can fill the cups to the top. Bake for 25 minutes. Insert a toothpick in one muffin to ensure that the muffins are completely cooked. Let cool for 10 minutes and then remove the muffins from the pan and let cool until you are ready to eat.
Julie Moreno is a chef and writer, now trying to get more people to cook their own food and understand where it comes from. She lives in the middle of California, where she’s learning to landscape with fruits and vegetables. Find her blog at The Wooden Cutting Board on Twitter @juliehouse and Facebook @thewoodencuttingboard