Let’s Get Pickin’ and Grinnin’ during 2021 Blueberry Season
Picking blueberries throughout Florida’s Nature Coast is one of my favorite things to do. I look forward to April when the season starts and will go on multiple picking adventures at different farms through late May. I like to get out the first week to fill a bucket, which holds five to seven pounds.
Something about the open farmland, long rows of fruitful bushes, and leisure activity makes me happy.
Freshly picked blueberries taste a lot better than the store-bought ones. They are larger and keep a long time in the refrigerator. I give some to the neighbors, some to my friends, and I eat A LOT of blueberries while picking because they taste so good.
Fresh blueberries are soft to the touch, and a ripe, just-picked blueberry makes my taste buds sing for joy! There is a little bit of hunting for the perfect berry, adding just enough challenge to keep things interesting.
It is important to pick berries that are ripe because blueberries stop ripening as soon as they leave the bush. Ripe blueberries are fully formed, dark to medium blue, and pull easily from the bush. Remember, if the bush doesn’t want to give up its berry, you don’t want it.
Picking Fresh Fruit is a Safe, Outdoor Activity
Outdoors, with lots of fresh air between people, is the environment in which blueberries are picked. The fresh air, sunshine, and four-foot-tall bushes planted in wide farm rows make picking blueberries on a Nature Coast farm one of the safest things one can do. Even a high-density farm, where the blueberry bushes are planted closer in rows, provides plenty of safe space for pickers.
Expeditions to pick blueberries with friends or family achieves several goals; we catch up with what is happening, get some easy exercise and fresh air, go home with tasty treats, and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.
Rows of blueberries have plenty of space between them but are close enough to allow conversation while reaching out to pick each blue orb of delectable health. Farms have taken measures to sanitize items and safely distance guests.
One person can pick on one side of a row, while their partner picks the opposite side. The berries are usually plentiful at waist height and above for minimal bending. Every farm I have ever picked on has an “eat as many as you want while you pick” policy, so enjoying tasty mouthfuls between bits of conversation is part of the fun.
Enjoying the You Pick Experience
And there are many living creatures to be found on a blueberry farm: butterflies, birds, bunnies, and bees all love a blueberry farm.
Families have a blast picking together! Children can pick the lower branches, run to their hearts content, and contribute to a bucket of healthy goodness.
Some farms encourage you to bring a picnic, some have farm animals and play areas, and some are simply fields of berry bushes in long, neat rows where the children can learn how their food is grown in Nature’s classroom.
What to do with All those Blueberries?
Upon returning from the U-pick experience, creating tasty treats and jams can be part of the fun.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together the ¾ cup sugar and ¼ cup shortening until light and fluffy. Add a large egg and mix until blended. Then add ¾ cup whole milk and mix again until blended.
In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture slowly until blended. Then fold in 2 cups of FRESH blueberries.
Grease and flour a 9×9” or 8×10” pan. Spread the blueberry batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Then make the topping, combining ½ cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Then use a pastry blender or two knives to cut in ¼ cup butter, until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the cake mixture.
Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes for an 8×10 pan or 45-50 minutes for an 9×9 pan (until cake tester comes out clean and serve it warm or cold, plain, or top it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
There is a public Cannery in Hernando County that you can use to make blueberry jam. They have monthly classes and a farm market. Check it out! Citrus County has a public cannery in also.
Do you have a favorite fresh blueberry recipe? Please add it in the comments. Maybe we can have a cook-off next year?
At Cavallo Farm and Market, the Signature Lemon Blueberry Cookies are a favorite, and we asked Chef Alan for the recipe. He just smiled and shook his head, so I went hunting. I could not find anything that sounded anywhere near as good as what I tasted, so I just visit the onsite bakery when I get the craving. Fortunately, they are available year-round.
So, what is the best way to pick Florida-fresh Nature Coast blueberries?
Ripe blueberries are fully formed, dark to medium blue, and pull easily from the bush. When you look at a blueberry bush, you will see ripe berries right next to unripe berries, so GENTLY pull them from the bush. There are a lot of berries on the farm, so you want to be sure you are only getting the ripe ones. Taste to be sure.
We recommend choosing one of our NatureCoaster blueberry farms. Prices range from $3-$5 per pound – not pint! Each location is unique and offers its own experience. Click on the Farm Names for full profiles.
- Bette’s Blues Blueberry Farm – Citrus Springs
- Cavallo Farm & Market – Lecanto
- Green Acres You Pick Blueberry Farm – Spring Hill
- JG Ranch – Brooksville
- Spring Lake Blueberry Farm – Brooksville
- Upicktopia – Masaryktown
Visit the Blueberry Festival April 16-18 in Masaryktown
April 16-18, 2021 is the Masaryk Winery Blueberry Festival, 19125 Phillips Road in Masaryktown. Put on by Dan Ebbecke and DJ BLuBloods, this small festival features live music, food truck, shopping, crafts, and family fun from 9 am – 7 pm each day.
There will be contests for the fastest blueberry picker bucket challenge and fastest blueberry pie eater. The event is free but bring cash to get your goodies while you are there. It is held on a 50+-acre farm with u-pick blueberries, blackberries, and vegetables galore! There will be specials on you picks, contests, and wine tasting available.
Things to Know when U-Picking Fresh Blueberries
- Pick early in the morning or later in the evening as the Florida sun can get a bit overbearing in the blueberry fields. It’s ok to pick in the heat of day, but be prepared.
- Bring water to keep hydrated.
- Port-a-Potties are available at most farms.
- Long sleeves and long pants are a good idea when you are picking, protecting from bugs, sunburns, burrs, and brambles.
- Closed toe shoes are a must to keep the dirt out.
- When you arrive, please park in the designated areas.
- Many farms supply a bucket. A belt of baling twine will hold the bucket on your waist for an easy pick-and-go system.
- If you are traveling a long distance, bring a cooler with ice to hold your fresh blueberries.
- A full bucket holds five to seven pounds of berries.
- Farmers often have other fresh fruits and vegetables available on-site. Many you pick blueberry farms offer locally grown honey and locally made preserves to tempt you. Others sell blueberry plants and other flora and produce.
- Some farms take only cash or check.
- It is a good idea to call ahead to insure the farm is open, especially in inclement weather.
Fresh air, fresh, healthy food, light exercise, and a congenial atmosphere make for a worthwhile trip – and the amazing taste of a freshly picked blueberry, perhaps over ice cream or with fresh-made whipped cream, have made this one of my favorite Nature Coast traditions.
Get out there to pick your own before the end of May because they’ll be gone until 2022!
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