The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

July 3, 2013

Amanda Stone: Blueberry season worthy of celebration

CARTHAGE, Mo. — I look forward to blueberry season like a kid looks forward to Christmas. Or at least Easter.

It helps that I adore eating blueberries, but I love everything about the season. It's the beginning of summer, before the plants are fried because we're sick of watering, before we've emptied our first bottle of sunscreen and before we're just plain tired of sweating. It's a magical time of year.

I haven't had much success growing my own blueberries, so the next best thing is going to a blueberry farm and picking them myself. I use my 4-year-old's tiny fingers for child labor. I want her to learn about where our food comes from, plus we get a few more berries. It's a win-win situation.

We head out early in the morning, slathered in sunscreen, bug spray and wearing our floppiest sun hats. The farms supply buckets with a removable plastic bag. If you're lucky, the farm will have a belt for you, too. It's handy to attach your bucket to a belt so you can use both hands to cup a bunch of berries.

The ripe ones roll right into your hands with no resistance. Blueberry picking etiquette recommends completing the bush before moving on to the next one. Pick for as long as you want; you can go back for bucket after bucket.

It's OK to sample some berries along the way. I'm pretty sure the folks in charge expect you to have gray teeth by the time you're ready to pull out your wallet. Once you get home with your bounty, there's really not much else to do.

The beauty of blueberries is that they don't have messy pits, seeds or stems to deal with. Store them in a container in the fridge and give them a quick rinse right before you eat them. If you want to freeze some for later, roll the berries onto a sheet pan in a single layer. Freeze them, then put them in freezer bags. Rinse them only when you're ready to use them, in order to prevent them from freezing into a solid blueberry block.

Blueberries are full of antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C. It's easy to grab a handful and swirl them into your cereal or yogurt, or eat them on their own for a sweet superfood snack.

Visit the Berry Shed, Heritage Farms or Thompson Bees and Berries, all located in Joplin, to pick your own. Try these recipes if you need an idea for your blueberry bounty.


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