One berry, two berries — sweet, juicy blueberries! It's National Blueberry Month

Freshly picked blueberries at Weaver's Orchard. (Photo by Emily Ryan)

“We’re really happy with this block of blueberries. You can see they’re as tall as I am,” explained Ed Weaver as he walked through a pick-your-own section at Weaver’s Orchard.

Just then, a customer stopped him and asked, “Do you have different varieties of blueberries here?”

“Yes,” Weaver replied. “We grow about 12 varieties.”

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“Do they taste different?” the woman wondered.

“I always say, ‘We don’t grow any blueberries that don’t taste good,’” Weaver joked.

Now is the perfect time to enjoy them. July is National Blueberry Month.

“One of the things we get a lot of comments on is the size of our blueberries,” Weaver said. “After sweet cherries, they’re probably my favorite. Apples are right up there too.”

He grows four acres of blueberries on his farm in Robeson.

“The thing that I like about blueberries is that it’s an easy thing for families. Children can sit on the ground and pick them. It’s just a fun activity,” described Weaver. “I’ll put my hand under a cluster, take my thumb and just flick them off into my hand. If they let loose easily, then they’re ready to pick.”

Laura Vernola never picked blueberries before joining Greener Partners, a nonprofit that operates The Longview Center for Agriculture, formerly Willow Creek Orchards, in Worcester.

“Being able to go out and pick my own was really amazing,” said the director of communications. “You say you like blueberries, but when you’re picking them yourself, there’s something different. They’re so good!”

“I sit on the couch at night, and instead of eating a bag of chips, I eat blueberries,” she added. “They’re better for you. They actually taste better. They’re sweet and juicy.”

In addition to its year-round market and pick-your-own program, The Longview Center will sell blueberry pancakes on Saturday mornings beginning July 13.

“We hope the blueberry season lasts for two months,” Vernola said.

So does Rachael Morrison, executive director of the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation, which organizes the Collegeville Farmers’ Market.

“What do I like about them? The antioxidants,” she said. “I bring a container to work. I wash them and eat them at my desk. Instead of eating a cookie, I’ll eat a blueberry.”

Morrison shared recipes for Blueberry Chicken Salad and Pickled Blueberries.

“Everybody just usually uses blueberries in salads, or preserves, or muffins. This is a different way, a savory way,” she noted.

As for Ed Weaver, he enjoys blueberries in everything from smoothies to cobbler.

“One great thing about this time of year is I get to walk up here and test them,” he said as he popped a few in his mouth and smiled. “I can’t walk through the fields without eating them fresh.”

Aunt Kathy’s Blueberry Muffins

4 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups frozen blueberries (unthawed) or fresh blueberries

Topping:

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a mixing bowl: cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in frozen blueberries. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over the muffins. Bake muffins at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

(Courtesy of Elizabeth Weaver, Weaver’s Orchard)

Blueberry Chicken Salad

2 cups fresh blueberries

2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast

3/4 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

3/4 cup lemon yogurt (optional — add additional mayonnaise if you don’t use yogurt)

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon salt

Set aside a few blueberries for topping salad. In a large bowl, combine chicken, celery, red pepper, green onions and remaining blueberries. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, mayonnaise and salt. Add to chicken mixture; gently toss to coat. Refrigerate until serving. Serve over lettuce and top with reserved blueberries. Four servings.

(Courtesy of Collegeville Farmers’ Market)

Pickled Blueberries

1 cup distilled white vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1¾ tablespoons sea salt

¼ cup water

1¼ pounds fresh blueberries

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk vinegar, sugar, salt and water in a medium bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. Add blueberries and onion, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight before using. Makes 3½ cups.

(Courtesy of Collegeville Farmers’ Market)

Tips

• Blueberries grow in clusters, and not all the berries ripen at the same time. One cluster may have ripe fruit, unripe fruit and green fruit.

• Blueberries begin to turn color before they are fully ripe. A berry may look ripe, but if the stem end is still red or green, it is far from ripe.

• A fully ripe blueberry is a deep blue color, even near the stem.

• An unripe berry will not ripen further after harvest. It will be high in acids, low in sugar and have little flavor.

Source: Weaver’s Orchard