30 August 2009

Blueberry picking

This weekend, braving soaring temperatures, my mom, sister, nephew and I headed up the 101 to Restoration Oaks Ranch for some U-PICK blueberries. Restoration Oaks maintains 13 different blueberry varieties, so from about early May through August there are sure to be fresh blueberries ready for the picking. After a short 45 minute drive north, we were greeted by friendly ranchers who equipped us with tin pails and directed us to the best field.

Blueberry picking is great for little kids and adults alike, as the hardy berries stand up well to the grasp of little fingers. In almost no time, we had my 11 1/2 month-old nephew Teo picking ripe blueberries...though all of the ones he picked (and the ones we dropped into his bucket) went straight into his mouth! He's a quick learner and isn't shy about munching up the good stuff. What's great about Restoration Oaks is that their blueberry farm is grown all without pesticides and sprays, and taste-testing (which is allowed during picking!) is completely safe.
After less than an hour of leisurely picking, we had 36 ounces of Bluecrisp, Emerald, Jewel, and Star blueberries. Each variety has its own level of tartness, and by planting a mix of berries in the same field, the plants are ensured healthy cross-pollination and pickers are offered a tasty blend of berries. If you prefer blueberries with more tartness, ask for the Maru and Ochlockonee Rabitteye varieties. The folks at Restoration Oaks are happy to give you taste samples, which we availed ourselves of. I am a fan of those tart ones! If you do get some Rabitteyes, you should know that as they age the sugars develop and the tart flavor is diminished.

We've enjoyed our fresh-picked blueberries in cereal, with yoghurt, as a fresh topping over ice cream, or just plain by the handful. We have so many that I'm trying to make a dent in them by making another blueberry coffee cake. It's just about ready to come out of the oven!

So if you have a free morning this next week or so, I recommend driving up to Restoration Oaks and getting yourself some of the best blueberries around. The season is almost over, but if you miss it this year, make sure to head over next May!

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