Photo: CreativeCommons license by Tacomamama
I have more-and-less fond memories of blueberry picking, some 25 years ago. The more-fond part is the memory of gigantic, delicious berries; the less-fond part is that I ate so many while picking that my stomach rebelled at fresh blueberries for many years!
Finally undaunted and hungry for fresh blueberries, I ventured out to a U-Pick blueberry farm yesterday. It was a less than satisfactory experience, although the drive was wonderful and the weather perfect. The berries were mostly all small, about the size of English peas or maybe wild blueberries, although they were not wild. (The photo above shows the aprox. size.) The owners didn't know the varieties since the bushes were already there and mature when they bought the property.
In two hours of picking on the steep hillside, I barely managed to fill 3/4 of my gallon pail, only spilling the contents twice. Fortunately, returning to the field after a bathroom break, I spied several bushes with just a few large berries on each one. Since this was the first day of picking, those bushes had not yet been picked. Rather, I think they were simply old, and perhaps unfertilized and un-pruned for some time. However, their berries were the size of fat nickels and I soon topped off my gallon pail.
Arriving home, I sorted out the fat berries to eat fresh, and put the rest in my Excalibur Food Dryer. I dried them perhaps only halfway, and froze them in that state. Had I dried them completely, I think they would have been the size of peppercorns! My 3/4 gallon of semi-dried smaller blueberries almost filled a quart freezer bag; nonetheless, they will be handy and tasty for blueberry muffins or pancakes this winter.
Will I do it again? Yes, and No. I certainly won't go again to a blueberry field without first asking the age and care of the bushes, and the size of the berries.
There is another U-Pick nearby that has late-season blueberries ripening about mid-August. A phone call will tell me something of their size, and that will determine if I'll pick blueberries again other than from my own garden.
I have 4 blueberry bushes in my fruit garden so far (all new this year), and although they didn't bear much fruit, all the berries were large compared to most of what I just picked. It can only get better next year!