Auntie K and Uncle A (actually what we call them, not just a blog abbreviation) came to visit from NYC (“the big ci-tay”) while W was out of town. I felt like their visit was cut out of the “if you have just 4 days in Gloucester” tour book. We visited L in Richmond, enjoyed splashing in the James River at a secluded beach, noshed on fav sandwiches from The Cheese Shop in Williamsburg (best dang sandwich in VA if you ask me…now if only Edward Snowden could leak me their house dressing recipe), and I even taught the visiting Brooklynites how to pick Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs. But best of all, for A’s birthday, we went blueberry picking at College Run Farms! Picking fruit there is one of my favorite semi-local outings, because you have to cross the James on the (free!) ferry, wind your way through the cornfields (A: Monsanto? Me: Yes, Monsanto) of Surry, and come home with a trunk full of fruit. I called ahead and asked about their use of pesticides and the farmer informed me he hadn’t sprayed his blueberry bushes in 4 years – score! I’ve picked strawberries and pumpkins there, but never blueberries. Funny how whatever you are doing effectively blinds you to other things – though I’d been there 4 or so times, I hadn’t recalled blueberry bushes at the farm, but there they were, big bushy ladies bursting with fruit, rows and rows of them.
At first, A professed that the sweetest berries were certainly the top ones. We began by picking only “tops” then, but halfway through, had degraded to brushing lower hanging fruits half-heartedly into our buckets, not so gently, not as carefully as the first ones, which were all added, stemless, with much ado and hemming and hawing over girth, blue-ness, and mouthfeel. Soon, we had picked a fair portion of bluebs (pronounced “bloobs”). A and K each picked a quart and I had to go and pick a gallon.
Frankly, picking a gallon of blueberries is no small task, especially with a squirmy boy on your hip. WV’s sole enjoyment became picking from my basket, squishing, and then tossing. We had fun giggling about it, through blue-stained teeth and lips, but it soon became a habit that was definitely hindering progress. So, Auntie K held WV. He had a blueberry attitude going on, a little hyped on sugar (see below). A then helped carry WV, teaching him to pick from a bush instead of mommy’s basket; my picking picked up.
I kept thinking of W’s favorite children’s book, Blueberries for Sal, and determined to read it when we got home to see how our adventure compared to Sal’s. I had a feeling Sal encountered a bear. We, on the other hand, encountered a salty old man, very serious in his picking, several full gallon baskets already a-brim, picking droves more to resell at his farm stand outside of NASA. NASA seemed like the exact opposite of us in this moment, stuffing our faces with bluebs and chortling about finding the largest one yet. Auntie K leaned into me and jokingly whispered of the old man, “he’s going in a poem” mere seconds before A, a poet by trade, looked over his shoulder and said “he’s a character” (translation: “he’s going in a poem.”).
I ended up making this blueberry muffin recipe twice. The first time, I followed it exactly. The second, I doubled the recipe and and changed around some ingredients. I have it here on our recipe page. And STILL there were bluebs left over. So, what did we do? We made jam, naturally. Nine 8-oz jars grace our cupboard now. This little tastetester approved.
And Sal DID encounter a bear on Blueberry Hill – but got home safe with her Mamma to can blueberries for winter.
Images from: McCloskey, Robert. Blueberries for Sal. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1948. Print.