published Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Side Orders: The zen of picking fresh blueberries

Blueberries are a powerhouse of nutrients, loaded with vitamins C and E as well as riboflavin, folate and niacin.
Blueberries are a powerhouse of nutrients, loaded with vitamins C and E as well as riboflavin, folate and niacin.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

When Harriette Seagle was young, she spent a lot of time at her great-grandparents' farm in Middle Tennessee, picking blueberries for her grandmother's prized pies.

"They were the best ever," she says. "They had about a dozen blueberry bushes, and I remember waiting impatiently every year for them to ripen. I usually picked a couple of bucketfuls, but I think I'd eat more than that while I was picking."

Now she picks them closer to home every year at The Blueberry Farm in LaFayette, Ga.

"I love taking my grandchildren. It's such a fun family event."

Blueberry Farm owner Simone Kilpatrick says pickers often have lifelong memories about picking blueberries as a child.

"Parents especially enjoy bringing their kids to show them where foods actually come from," she says. "I've heard many conversations between people that touch deeply into their history and experiences. Many thoughts and prayers have been shared while picking."

And the act of picking can be quite therapeutic, she says.

"Since picking doesn't really engage the mind as much as the fingers, you are set free to daydream, resolve problems and plan as you harvest."

One more thing about picking your own blueberries ... it's more economical than buying them prepicked. Pick-your-own blueberries are $8 a gallon at The Blueberry Farm. Double that price if they're prepicked. You do the math.

Here's a list of farms in the area that offer pick-your-own fun. For more, go online to www.pickyourown.org.

• Morris Vineyard & Tennessee Mountainview Winery, 346 Union Grove Road, Charleston, Tenn. 423-479-7311 or 423-618-2173.

• Schwab's Blueberries, 4407 Highway 127 S., Crossville, Tenn., 931-261-1951.

• Bollenbacher Blueberries, 445 Old Sweetwater Road, Sweetwater, Tenn., 423-337-9562.

• Thedford's Blueberry Patch, 100 John Deere Lane, Spring City, Tenn., 423-365-5764 or 423-847-7510.

• Billings Blueberry Ridge, 1059 Radio Springs Road, Rome, Ga., 706-506-4527 or 706-235-7022.

• Fox Blueberry Farm, 863 Owens Chapel Road, Calhoun, Ga., 706-629-1085.

• Prewitt Berry Farm, 1085 River Road, Chatsworth, Ga., 706-695-2261.

• The Blueberry Farm, 1363 Highway 151, LaFayette, Ga., 706-638-0908.

Off the bookshelf

How do you improve upon perfection? I had my doubts that it could be done, but Elizabeth Sims, past president of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and Chef Brian Sonoskus, executive chef at Tupelo Honey Cafe, have proven me wrong with their latest cookbook, "Tupelo Honey Cafe: New Southern Flavors from the Blue Ridge Mountains" (Andrew McMeel Publishing, $29.99).

Their first book, "Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen," treated restaurant patrons to some of their favorite recipes, as well as giving them insight into what makes Tupelo Honey Cafe tick, from the farmers that grow many of their foods to the cooks that bring them to the table.

This second book is an extension of the first, taking readers on a culinary excursion through the Blue Ridge Mountains, visiting its people and their food traditions along the way. The cookbook is sold at your favorite bookstores, online or in-store, as well as at the Tupelo Honey Cafe in Chattanooga, located in Warehouse Row.

Recipes run the gamut, from Summer Corn Skillet Cakes to Blackberry Pie. What better way to celebrate the glory of a Southern summer harvest? In keeping with today's blueberry theme, however, here's a recipe that will add a sweet-savory touch to any of your grilled or roasted meats. Sims and Sonoskus recommend it served with roasted guinea hen, but since those aren't found in many stores around town, this Blueberry Zinfandel Sauce works equally well on roast chicken, quail or turkey, they say. It really bumps up the flavor of grilled chicken breasts and dresses up a store-bought rotisserie chicken very nicely.

Blueberry Zinfandel Sauce

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup zinfandel wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the blueberries for 3 minutes, or until they begin to blister and pop open. Add the sugar and wine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream and bring the mixture back to a boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and swirl in the butter until it is melted. Serve with roasted or grilled chicken, pheasant, turkey, quail or guinea hen. Makes 2 cups.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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