A couple weeks ago I came home from work and in the sink was a bunch of blueberries in a strainer. “Oh Blueberries” I shouted with joy to my husband who was hanging out on the couch. He mentioned that our neighbor, Robyn, brought them over. I walked over, tried a few and purred with delight because they were super sweet and delicious. I went to put my bags down then went back to the sink for a few more blueberries. Over the course of the next 10-20 minutes every task I did ended or passed through the kitchen so I could gobble up more blueberries. Then finally I planted myself at the sink and just gorged myself, the whole time rattling on about how sweet they were and how they tasted like candy. After my blueberry binge I started to not feel so good. These blueberries were as sweet as candy and my tummy said enough, at least for the time being.
The next day I facebooked my neighbor and proclaimed her awesome power and that she was officially my blueberry dealer. To my pleasant surprise, she shared the location of a “u-pick” blueberry farm … 15 minutes from our house. I was in shock that I had not found it before.
That very weekend Joe and I went to pick blueberries! We arrived promptly when the farm opened and discovered that there were already 10 cars at the farm. We grabbed our buckets and headed out amongst the bushes. The farm has 4 different blueberry varieties and of course we had to sample as we picked. (Sampling is encouraged by the farmer because each variety tastes different) We picked for over an hour and a half. At the end, we had a little over 9 pounds of blueberries. We made out like bandits for only $3.50 a pound.
Our berry picking adventure was not over! Oh, no! Joe discovered a u-pick blackberry grower about 10 minutes from our house. I was a little hesitant because I remember picking blackberries at my Nana’s house and that bush had nasty thorns. But we happily discovered this grower had thorn-less bushes. I was so happy that I almost broke out into song and dance (almost, it was close). So a picking we went. We quickly filled six cartons of blackberries which turned out to be 7 pounds.
With our precious sweet edible jewels loaded in the car we headed home.
Both of the growers shared some great tips for storing the berries in both the refrigerator and freezer.
- First tip – don’t wash them before refrigerating or freezing, this makes their skin tough. You rinse them before eating them.
- When you get home lay the berries out on baking sheets to let cool. The berries have been in the sun and have natural heat and they need to come to room temperature. This also allows them to air dry naturally.
- Refrigerator – In a Tupperware type container, place a layer of paper towels at the bottom. Add the berries in the container, no deeper than 4 inches for the blueberries and no deeper than 2 layers of blackberries. Place the container uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to allow the moisture to escape. The next day snap on the lid. The blueberries with last for up to 8 weeks and the blackberries with last for up to 3 weeks.
- Freezer – Lay the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze overnight. Pour the berries into a container or bag. The reason you freeze them first individually, is because if they are dumped in a bag and straight into the freezer they will freeze as a clump (If you have a Food Saver, the blueberries will hold up to the vacuum seal. The blackberries are too delicate, even after freezing, you will need to get as much air out manually and then seal the bag.)
When I shared about our berry picking adventure at work the first question out of my co-workers mouth was “What are you going to do with all those berries?”
We kept some of them to eat and enjoy right away and also for baked goodies, but most of them we froze for future pleasure. We have enjoyed them in our oatmeal and pancakes. As for the baking, on the list is Blueberry Nutmeg Cake from Cheryl Sternman Rule’s cookbook Ripe and from the Joy the Baker Cookbook, Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins. Our frozen berries will be great for smoothies, in more pancakes or baked goodies, no need to thaw.
Now I can go straight to the source for my locally grown fresh blueberries and blackberries. No middle man for me! This is going to be a very addicting habit. At least it is healthy!
Back to the kitchen I go to get baking!
If you are in the Central Florida Area check out these u-pick berry locations. If you live in Clermont there is no excuse for you not to go at least once.
Mark’s U-Pick Blueberries
The season starts as early as April and goes through mid-July. They are open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8am – 2pm. Call the night before for the picking report. Get there early and bring the whole family!
18900 C. R. 561, Clermont, FL 34715
H&H Berry Farms
Their season is May through mid-June (sorry to say they are close for the 2012 season). Open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm, and Saturdays from 8am to at least 2pm.
15217 County Road 455, Montverde, FL 34756