On a gorgeous July morning, I ventured out to Stan’s Berry Patch near Constantia with friends John, Bridgette, and Tonia. The three of them are veteran blueberry pickers, often picking 100 pounds apiece every season! In my naivete, I invited myself to this particular session, thinking I would get a few berries to put in my oatmeal in the morning. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the giant soup pots packed up with the other equipment in the trunk.
First of all, I thought that blueberries came from small plants like strawberries. I was not prepared for the bushes that were taller than I was, with branches hitting me in the face as we were led to a prime spot not yet picked by human hands. Bridgette unpacked the trunk, handing me a sherbet bucket with a rope on it so it would hang around my neck, bringing it closer to the branches for more efficient picking.
i started plucking the berries from the branches as we chatted, sharing stories about our week. After awhile, it got quiet and all I could hear was the plop of berries falling into the buckets. I wondered how to tell if they were ripe, so I asked (they fall off the branches). The sun grew warmer and it felt good on my bare arms. Tonia asked if any of us needed sunscreen or a sip of water as we continued to work. I watched my soup pot fill with each bucketful and wondered how many berries I could actually eat. They told me now they freeze copious amounts every July and that last year’s batch lasted until just last week!
At this time I feel compelled to mention that I have never done any real gardening or harvesting. I would always volunteer to babysit my youngest sister as a way out of weeding in our community garden when I was a teen. I can picture my family now laughing as I tell them how I went and picked pound after pound of berries. Diego would want me to pick enough for some pie.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the movie Michael about pie:
As we got into the car after weighing and purchasing our haul, Tonia offered me a wet washcloth that she had packed in a ziploc baggie. Marveling at how prepared she had been for the whole trip, she replied, “This is not my first blueberry rodeo!”
For those of you who wonder how to package pound after pound of blueberries for the freezer, John says the best way to sort your blueberries is to put them in a large cake pan and roll them from one end of the pan to the other. The crappy ones won’t roll and the ones with the stems on them will roll sideways. Happy picking!