Blueberry pickin’ time

by Tallahassee Table

It’s blueberry season, and we’re ready to gobble up buckets of the sweet super fruit. Fortunately, you can pick berries yourself at nearby farms or find fresh berries at local farmers’ markets or through the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance online market.

If you’re going picking, aim to go early before the heat of the day. Shoes, socks, hats and sunscreen are recommended. Derek Phillips, do-owner of Handsome Harvest Farm, notes that when you pick blueberries, the fruit should come right off. “If you have to tug it, leave it. It’s not as sweet. And it should be dark blue with no pink.”

Blueberry pickin’ has become a fun, family activity. Here are some of the blueberry farms in our area. If I’m missing your farm, please let me know and I’ll add your info.

Blueberry Springs Farm: You can pick rabbiteye blueberries at this family-owned farm then go swimming, canoeing or kayaking in the nearby Wacissa River springs. The farm, owned by Jack and Teresa Krause for 30 years, is open from 7 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Prices are $3.50 per pound for u-pick and $5 for already picked blueberries. Tallahassee Table reader Erin Adams said she went to Blueberry Springs on May 20 and said “the bushes are loaded. Plus they have blackberries and lots of plants to buy.” Bring cash or check. The farm is off a road that ends at the mouth of the springs. 383 Wacissa Springs Road; 850-997-1238.

Blue Sky Farm organic blueberry picking: Pick these babies at the scenic Monticello farm from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The cost is $4 per pound with discounts for large quantities. Cash only. 1180 Asheville Highway, Monticello

Green Meadows Farm: This family-owned Monticello farm has been open to the public since 2008 said owner Delores Green. You can help harvest these USDA certified organic, rabbiteye blueberries, on five acres, from 7:30 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The berries are $4.75 a pound. The farm also has picnic tables and a cookbook. Pay by cash or check. 117 E. Bluebird Rd., Monticello; 850-997-4886.

Handsome Harvest Farm: Derek Phillips and Aaron Nicely own this farm in West Quincy, where they grow blueberries as well as other fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers and squash, which will be for sale. You can pick berries there from 9 a.m. to noon on Sundays or find the berries at the Red Hills online market and the Tallahassee Farmers’ Market in Market Square. The farm is at 130 Eddie Blake Rd.; 239-896-6556.

Jubilee Orchards: This land has a storied heritage.The plantation was purchased in 1990 by former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles. You can see his restored 1840s era log cabin, which he dubbed the “Cook Shack.” The orchard is owned by Chiles’ son Bud and his wife Kitty, who grow Southern highbush blueberry varieties. Jubilee is now closed for picking but keep it in mind for the future. 12008 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-385-7800.

Myrtle Creek Farm: The farm is having a “big picking weekend” from June 14 and June 15. Picking hours are 4 to 8 p.m. June 14, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. June 15. Nice to have a late afternoon-early evening option. 2184 Tram Rd., Monticello; 850-997-0533.

You’ve picked or bought your blueberries. Now it’s time to enjoy them — but first, here are some tips from Jubilee Orchards for ensuring your blueberries last longer.

Eat Now! It’s hard to resist eating all of your blueberries at once! Blueberries stored at room temperature will last 4-5 days. If you decide to leave your berries stored at room temperature, keep in an open container without a lid. This will help prevent the berries from moisture damage. Always wash before eating. Take a look at  Jubilee Orchard’s signature recipes.

Refrigerate: Chill your blueberries in the refrigerator if you plan to eat them within 2 weeks. Berries typically stay fresh in the fridge for 10-12 days. The key to refrigerating blueberries is to store them in a covered container without washing them. Washing the berries before refrigerating may cause them to become mushy. For best results, wait to wash berries just before eating.

Freeze: Freezing your blueberries is going to be your best bet if you plan to store your berries for more than 2 weeks. To freeze, start by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash the berries and lay them out on the baking sheet in a single layer and leave in freezer for 2 hours. Once frozen, transfer your berries into a freezer bag or airtight container. Frozen blueberries will keep for up to 6 months.:

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