Blueberries were once a summertime-only fruit. Now, you can find them in stores year-round, but it's in the summertime that they're at their best — locally grown and bursting with flavor.
Oh, patience grows thin waiting for the sun to turn the berries their beautiful deep shade of blue. But then you walk out one morning, the grass heavy with dew and see a different color in the corner of the yard. It's happened. It's time to start the day with a blueberry smoothie and then, for lunch, toss a few blueberries in your salad.
At dinner? Make a blueberry salsa for your grilled chicken and end the meal with a blueberry crisp. There you have it. A beautifully blue day.
Thanks to spring's generous rains, many blueberry bushes are heavy with fruit, their limbs weighted down by the abundance of berries. But Mother Nature spanked us this past spring with a late freeze. Add to that last year's drought, and some blueberry growers are literally singing the blues.
"We are not expecting a good season this year," says Simone Kilpatrick, owner of The Blueberry Farm in LaFayette, Ga. "I think our bushes were very stressed by the drought last summer, and we need to continue our pruning and reshaping efforts. Many of our bushes also lost flowers in the late freeze we had this spring. Some of the bushes have a lot of berries, but not enough to warrant large crowds of pickers this year."
Gus Bollenbacher, who retired from teaching in upstate New York and headed to a warmer climate in Sweetwater, Tenn., has been in the berry business since the early 1990s. His bushes, too, suffered from the late freeze, but not so much that he's not opening his farm to pickers.
"I lost some berries, and I won't have a bumper crop like last year, but it still looks good," he says.
Here's a list of area growers. Call ahead to check for availability. Bollenbacher says he'll be opening the last week of June or the first of July. "As soon as I have at least 400 pounds of berries on the bushes for people to pick," he says.
* 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.
Whether you have lots of berries or your bushes also suffered from the elements and are forcing you to supplement, there are plenty to be had in area markets — and so many delicious ways to enjoy them, like this incredibly simple blueberry crisp. It's a favorite I've been making for years and cannot find an easier way to satisfy my family's blueberry sweet tooth. Add a dollop of freshly whipped cream or scoop of ice cream for a delicious finish.
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter, and set aside. In a large bowl, toss together the blueberries, sugar, flour and cinnamon. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
Using the same bowl — no need to rinse out — mix together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the melted butter, and toss with hands until mixture resembles coarse meal. Layer over fruit in baking dish. Sprinkle sugar over top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown.
Contact Anne Braly at email@example.com.