Bountiful Blueberries

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blueberries recipe

Long before berries were touted for their health benefits and cancer fighting antioxidants I wanted my very own berry patch. Aside from melons, berries are my favorite fruit. Whether it be strawberries on pound cake with vanilla ice cream, blackberries or raspberries in fruit smoothies or blueberries hiding in my Saturday morning pancakes, berries are on my top ten list.

When I moved to my little homestead I vowed that I would have a berry patch, bursting with all of my favorites. It’s taken me awhile, but I finally have, what I think, is the perfect berry patch for a household of two. In the backyard I built two 3’x12’ raised beds. These beds hold the blackberries, Logan berries, red raspberries and golden raspberries. But, it’s the front yard that holds the stars of my lust for berries – BLUEBERRIES!!

After reading an article about edible landscapes I decided that the west facing front planter would be the perfect place for a living, edible hedge. So, two years ago I set out to make it happen. I laid the irrigation line, amended the soil with peat moss and well rotted compost. Blueberries like acidic soil that is rich in matter. When it came time to purchase my berry plants I talked to growers from the farmers market and local farm stands trying to get information about the best varieties for our area.

Then one day, while visiting a friend, I found out that one of my former neighbors had planted a 10-acre test plot with the idea of growing blueberries commercially. I gave Andy a call and picked his brain about growing conditions, fertilizing, watering, production, harvesting and, of course, varieties suitable for our area. It was a mini crash course in berry production and it was great. He was so helpful.

With a little more research on the internet to help me, I decided on two different varieties, three plants each. My new blueberry hedge would consist of O’Neal’s and Sharp Blue. They are both highbush type plants, which means they grow more vertically; perfect for my idea of growing an edible hedge. And, they mature different times of the year, so I would have a relatively consistent flow of berry goodness.

After a few phone calls I was able to find a local nursery that carried both varieties. On a beautiful spring day, under a crystal blue sky we drove the 10 miles to pick up our bushes. I had already told the nursery we were coming and what we wanted, but when we arrived we got the surprise of our lives. When the nursery workers went to the field to get our potted berries they found leftovers from previous seasons and brought them up front in case I might be interested. “Interested” I said, boy was I ever. These were not the ordinary spindly first year plants that home gardeners normally get, but 4-year-old plants that had been forgotten about at the back of the nursery. They were almost 3-feet tall and busting out of their pots.

I took the ones that looked the healthiest, loaded them in the truck and headed home feeling smug that we had gotten so much more than we anticipated. Once home, the planting went fast, and within a few hours the berries were nestled snuggly in their new home.

The harvest that first season was light – the results of transplanting and plant shock, which is normal. But, this season the plants were covered with tiny white flowers, a sign of things to come. The O’Neal’s will be harvested in June followed by the later maturing Sharp Blue. We should have enough berries for fresh eating, with plenty to freeze for winter use or for making into jam. No matter what, we will be in blueberry heaven.

If you see a blueberry patch in your future, check out these useful resources.

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/ec/ec1304/

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Growing-Blueberries.aspx

http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/growing-blueberries/index.html

If you’re not ready to plant your own patch, buy fresh berries at the farmers market and enjoy their burst of flavor all season long. Pick up an extra pint and try this luscious recipe, one of our favorites from the Iroquois Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Blueberry-Lemon Muffins
(makes 18 large or 36 small muffins)

INGREDIENTS
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup cooking oil
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
½ Tbsp lemon zest

GLAZE:
4 Tbsp butter
½ cup sugar

Grease or coat muffin tins. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Into a mixing bowl sift flour and other dry ingredients.

Into a small bowl crack and beat eggs with a wire whisk for 10 seconds. Add the milk and oil to eggs and stir to blend. Make a well in the flour and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Stir as little as possible to moisten the flour. Set the batter aside for a moment.

Combine blueberries with lemon zest, and fold the berry mix into the muffin mix. Again stir gently and as little as possible. Spoon batter into muffin tins to ¾-full.

Place muffin tins into oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. It may take an additional 5 minutes to become golden brown. Check at 15 minutes, and if they are browning too quickly, move to the bottom rack of the oven.

While the muffins are baking, melt butter in a small saucepan. Pour the sugar into a small shallow bowl easy for dipping.

When the muffins are finished, cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of each. Tilt and gently lift each muffin from the tin.

Dip the top of each muffin lightly in the butter and then in the sugar. The muffins can be held overnight and reheated for eating. They can also be frozen, but fresh is always best.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Hummy



One Response to “Bountiful Blueberries”

  1. Michele R says:

    I love blueberries! I am looking forward to getting some transplants from my father this next week. My dh thinks I’m a bit crazy, but I am putting them in our flower garden around the pool. lol. Raspberries too.

    Just found your site a few weeks ago. Love it. :)

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