By Marla Schultz
Plump blueberries peek out from beneath green, elongated leaves. Dangling from slim stems, they beg to be plucked and placed into my bucket. I oblige. Blueberry picking comes easy with ripe blueberries ready for harvesting. With my fingers and thumb I gently roll the clumps of berries. The ripe ones easily fall into my hand; the green berries cling stubbornly to the bush, refusing to join their ill-fated comrades. I plop a handful into the bucket and then reach for a few large, juicy ones and pop them into my mouth. They burst between my teeth; a surge of flavor hits my taste buds.
All three of my boys love them—my girls aren’t quite so passionate—but at almost $4 for 6 ounces at our local grocery store, I rarely buy them. Blueberry picking is a fun and economical way for my family to enjoy time outside. I watch my children picking berries off a bush nearby. Like myself the ratio of berries in the mouth to berries in the bucket is fairly even at first, but soon our cravings are satiated and we settle in for the work at hand. In a little over an hour the seven of us pick two large buckets of berries. Plenty more have been consumed, equally quenching our thirst and satisfying our hunger.
Blueberry Picking Has Many Rewards
Imagining the blueberry smoothies, muffins, jams, and summer desserts that I can create, we begin walking up to the canopy-covered table to weigh and purchase the fruit, arms straining from our load. Not sure how to store fresh picked blueberries, I suspect I will need to wash and freeze them in single layers on cookie sheets before transferring them to gallon-sized bags. I ask the young woman serving us and discover that you aren’t supposed to wash them. Instead place them in a wire basket (she suggests purchasing one at a dollar store); shake them gently to get rid of the dust and debris; pour them into gallon-size freezer bags; and freeze. That’s my type of fruit—simple. I pay her and she carefully pours the berries into two bags. We load them up in the van, imagining homemade waffles crowned with the luscious fruit and whipped cream. Yum! Although I prefer some other fruits over blueberries, the lack of thorns and the ease with which they can be quickly stored makes them worth the time and money. More durable than other berries, they retain their juice making them far less messy to deal with.
Advantages of Blueberry Picking at Pick Your Farms
This particular farm, Blueberry Bluff, charges the same rates as most of the other blueberry farms in our area—a price much cheaper than local grocery stores. Unlike some of the others, though, they also offer a discount if larger quantities are picked. Our group picks far more than the 100 pounds needed to receive the lowest price—$1.75 per pound. A fantastic deal! In addition, as you might have guessed, the owners encourage customers to eat as they pick. Blueberry Bluff is just one of many pick-your-own farms. Although the Central Valley of California, where this farm is located, is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, there are pick-your-own farms (also called U-pick or PYO) located all over the United States, as well as other countries.
I recommend finding a You Pick berry farm near you and enjoying the rewards of harvesting some of Earth’s bounty, the benefit of paying less for produce than the price charged by grocery stores, and the opportunity to can and preserve a variety of fruits and vegetables without having to grow all of them yourself. In addition, blueberry picking is a great way to work together as a family.
Marla Schultz is married to Rick and the mother of six fantastic children. She lives in the Central Valley of California where she writes; homeschools; works from home as the Managing Editor of Molly Green; and enjoys spending time with her family.