The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 16, 2012

Blueberries not quite ripe for the picking

By Mike Pound
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Donna McDonald wants to make one thing clear: The blueberries at Heritage Farms are not quite ready for picking. Like many other crops this spring, blueberries are expected to come in earlier than normal. McDonald estimates that the berries on her acre patch, located on Missouri Highway 43, north of Joplin, are about two weeks shy of being ripe.

It’s possible, she said, that the berries will be ready sooner than that, and it’s possible they might take a bit longer than two weeks. With Mother Nature, it’s hard to tell, McDonald said.

“The best thing for people to do is check our blog, which is updated daily, or to call before coming out,” McDonald said.

McDonald and her husband, Ted, purchased the blueberry patch, formerly owned by Jay and Mindy Chism, in late 2007. With the help of their children and grandchildren, the McDonalds have been churning out fresh-off-the-vine blueberries since 2008. Visitors to Heritage Farms may pick their own berries, or they may purchase pre-picked..

McDonald said the mild weather has produced a bumper crop.

“It has been an excellent growing season,” she said.

Typically, the blueberry season will run about eight weeks. By then, McDonald said, the berries have either overripened or they have been completely picked over.

The health benefits of blueberries are substantial. McDonald cited a recent health study that shows eating a “couple of handfuls of blueberries a day” can reduce a persons blood pressure by up to eight percent.

Blueberries contain the highest antioxidant capacity of all fresh fruit, and a recent study conducted at the Michigan Cardiovascular Center suggests that the berries can reduce belly fat and risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

Besides that, they taste great too, McDonald added.

Earlier this week McDonald’s granddaughters, Christah and Charis Jones, were sorting through the blueberry patch searching for ripe berries to pick. The berries they picked will be frozen and sold at a later date, McDonald said.

“They really freeze well as long as they are dry when you put them in the freezer. If they are still wet when you freeze them, you’ll have a real mess on your hands,” she said.

When the berries are ripe, Heritage Farms will be open from 7:30 a.m. until noon on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Depending on conditions, the schedule is subject to change.

“You should always call us before coming out,” McDonald said.

The phone number for Heritage Farms is 417-673-2580. For updated news you may also visit Heritage Farms online at     www.heritagefamilyfarms.


Chocolate blueberry clusters

1 package milk chocolate chips

1/4 cup shortening

2 cups fresh blueberries

In a saucepan over low heat or in a double boiler, melt chocolate chips and shortening. Stir until smooth then remove from heat. Gently fold in the blueberries. Drop a teaspoon into paper candy cups or onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Chill in refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes. Can be stored in refrigerator up to 24 hours.

Source: Donna McDonald


Blueberry pie

4 cups blueberries

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup cornstarch

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Mix berries, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until thick. Pour into unbaked pie crust shell and bake for about 35 minutes.

Source: Donna McDonald


Blueberry sauce

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

In medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add water and blueberries. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Continue cooking and stirring 2 more minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Great on ice cream and on pancakes.

Source: Donna McDonald