Today's column might just give you the blues ... for berries. As with most other locally grown produce, blueberries are coming in a little earlier than usual due to warmer temperatures the first half of the year, and that's been a good thing for the berry business, said Simone Kilpatrick, who, with husband Joe, owns The Blueberry Farm in LaFayette, Ga.
"Our bushes are loaded with berries," she said, "and it looks like it's going to be a great season. We're excited to get started."
If you want to pick your own or visit a local farm bursting with berries, you should schedule it toward the end of June, just a week or so away. Here's a quick list of some blueberry farms in our area that will allow you the fun of picking your own, and many will do the picking for you at a higher cost.
As always, I suggest you call ahead to check for exact directions, hours and availability. For example, I called Bollenbacher's blueberry farm and was told that days of the week differ due to how many berries are ripe enough for picking. The following includes a partial listing of the farms you can find throughout the region at www.pickyourown.org.
• Bollenbacher's Blueberries, 445 Old Sweetwater Road (County Road 220), Sweetwater, Tenn. 423-337-9562.
• Morris Vineyard and Tennessee Mountainview Winery, 346 Union Grove Road, Charleston, Tenn. 423-479-7311. Hours: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
• Santa's Berry Farm, 620 Towee Falls Road, Tellico Plains, Tenn. 423-253-6742.
• Thedford's Blueberries, 100 John Deere Lane, Spring City, Tenn. 423-365-5764 or 423-847-7510.
• The Blueberry Farm, 1363 Georgia Highway 151, LaFayette. 706-638-0908. www.theblueberryfarm.com.
If you plan on freezing the blueberries you pick, don't wash them. Put them on a cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer. Once they're frozen, transfer them to a resealable bag. Wash when you're ready to use them.
I recommend this colorful twist on an upside-down cake from allrecipes.com. The combination of blueberries and almonds is remarkable. Top it with a big scoop of whipped cream for a fresh-as-summer dessert.
Blueberry Upside-Down Cake
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan. In a medium bowl, combine blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest. Toss to coat berries, then pour into the prepared pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the almond extract and 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest. Stir together 2 cups flour and the baking powder. Beat into butter mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter over the berries in the pan.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Place serving plate over the top of the pan and carefully invert cake and plate together, so that the berries end up on top. Carefully unlock the buckle on the side of the pan and remove. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top of cake and serve warm.
On the restaurant front ... It'd been quite some time since I had eaten at Taco Mac in Jack's Alley, so it came as a nice surprise to find the menu filled with many lower-fat options, all marked with a red heart for easy identification. Examples include a delicious-sounding shrimp and avocado salad with romaine lettuce, black beans, pico de gallo and feta cheese. But the Southwest chicken wrap caught my eye and sated my appetite. The only thing that could have improved it would have been a small cup of ranch dressing for dipping. Of course, that would have upped the calorie count. Every heart-marked menu item has 600 calories or less. If only that had included the incredible french fries that came with the wrap. A big meal for $6.99.