By BETH BENCE REINKE for Smart
“When you think of fireworks, think of blueberries,” said Rick Miller, owner of Blueberry Hill in Lower Windsor Township. That’s because pick-your-own blueberry season runs from the Fourth of July through mid-August.
With five acres containing more than 6,000 blueberry bushes, Miller expects a plentiful harvest for the York County folks who stop by to fill their buckets. Picking blueberries is a fun way for families to enjoy being together, he said. “People come with their kids and mom and dad or grandparents — it’s a nice family time.”
Miller recommends morning visits to the patch so your berries don’t get mushy from sitting in the sun too long. “The key is to pick them in the cooler part of the day and get them in the fridge as soon as you get home,” he said. Blueberries normally last 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen to use all year long.
1. If berries are damp from morning dew or rinsing, spread them on a towel and allow them to “air dry” indoors. Do not place berries in the sun or they will become too soft.
2. Arrange dry blueberries on a cookie sheet and freeze them overnight. Freezing in a shallow layer keeps them from clumping together.
3. The next day, transfer berries into labeled, plastic bags and return to freezer.
Blueberries can be rinsed to remove pesticides before freezing, if desired. Miller prefers to rinse his unwashed frozen berries for about 30 seconds under hot water just before eating instead. “The texture is almost like you just picked them out of the patch,” he said.
If you’ve never eaten fresh blueberries, you’re missing one of nature’s most flavorful treats, said Marla Kay Allen of Chanceford Township, who has been picking her own berries for 25 years. She loves to eat a big bowl of plain, fresh-picked blueberries. Store-bought blueberries don’t taste the same, Allen said. “With fresh, you get the best flavor and the best nutrition — there is just no comparison.”
Miller said that in order for non-local blueberries to be shipped to grocers without turning mushy, they are plucked from the bush before they’re completely ripe. “That’s why they don’t taste as good,” he explained. “A blueberry doesn’t have its full flavor until it has been blue for about 10 days.”
Blueberry pickin’ tips
• Always call first. Sometimes, berries become over-picked and everything shuts down for a few days to allow the berries to ripen.
• Bring empty containers.
• Weigh empty containers first. Container weight is subtracted when your berries are weighed and cost is tallied.
• Bring a drink.
If you forget your berry buckets, Miller says not to worry. Most pick-your-own farms have containers or trays you can buy for a nominal fee.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
Cream sugar, butter and egg; stir in milk. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients, mixing well. Fold in blueberries. Spread into greased and floured 9-by-9-inch pan. For topping, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle crumb topping over blueberry mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Serve warm.
— Rick Miller, Lower Windsor Township
WHERE TO PICK
Blueberries are expected to be ready the end of June or the beginning of July. Here are some pick-your-own locales:
In York County
• Blueberry Hill, 557 Heffner Road, Red Lion, Lower Windsor Township, 417-3828; www.localharvest.org/farms/M23259
• Maple Lawn Farms, 251 E. Maple Lawn Road, New Park, Fawn Township, 382-4878, www.maplelawnfarms.com
• Raven’s Chestnut Sands Farm, 137 Butter Road, York, Conewago Township, 266-1470
• Shaw Orchards, 21901 Barrens Road South, Hopewell Township, 993-2974, www.shaworchards.com
In Adams County
• Brownvalley Farms, 295 Hickory Road, Littlestown, 359-5084
• Hollabaugh Bros., 545 Carlisle Road, Biglerville, Upper Adams Township, 677-8412, hollabaughbros.com