We’ve had to miss a lot of joyous occasions this spring, but there’s one thing we can still count on: Picking blueberries.
A handful of farms in our region are still offering a chance to gather our own buckets of berries or if you prefer, you can buy them pre picked or possibly delivered. You can also find farm-fresh blueberries at our farmers’ markets or through the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance online market.
Berry season is underway at a couple farms and others will get started at the end of May or in June so you can satisfy your blueberry cravings into the summer months.
Blueberry farmers are taking precautions and maintaining proper distancing in the field, including hand washing stations and sanitizers. Despite precautions you can nonetheless savor the simple pleasures of the blueberry season. Escape the worries of the world in an oasis of nature. Do some bird watching. And then nibble on just-picked warm, juicy berries.
Blueberry picking is a fun family activity so if you’re looking for a way to entertain your kids, give it a try.
Tips from farmers: Go early or late to avoid the heat of the day. Wear shoes, socks and hats and slather on sunscreen. Best to bring your own water bottle.
As for picking, you want to run your hand under the berries. Ripe berries, farmers advise, will fall right off the bush and you can catch them in your bucket or basket. If you have to tug at them or if they’re still white or pinkish in color, they’re not ready.
Below are some of the blueberry farms in our area, followed by some tips for picking and storing berries. Check with each farm before you go out to confirm their hours.
Have fun and keep pickin’.
Blueberry Springs Farm: A visit to Blueberry Springs offers more than just picking. Owners Jack and Teresa Krause have been welcoming visitors to “pick and paddle” for more than 30 years. You can gather rabbiteye blueberries at this family-owned farm then go canoeing or kayaking in the nearby Wacissa River Springs. While there, observe a lot of birds, among them woodpeckers, owls and crows. Pick blueberries for $4 a pound or get them picked for you for $6 a pound. Place an order and they’ll be ready. Blackberries are $5 per pound; u-pick only. Blueberry Springs is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 7 a.m. to noon and 5 to dusk — “the coolest parts of the day,” Jack said. The farm also has blackberries and lots of plants to buy — fig trees, blueberry and blackberry bushes, tomato plants and pepper plants. 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. Top photo credit: Blueberry Springs Farm
Blue Sky Berry Farm: The scenic Monticello farm anticipates blueberry season will get underway in early June. Due to the virus, Blue Sky will limit picking to 10 people at a time. And this year, the farm is restricting picking to those picking at least six pounds of the organic blueberries. The cost is usually $4 a pound but there will be discounts for people picking six pounds or more. Hours are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Credit cards accepted. 1180 Asheville Hwy., Monticello; 850-545-6128.
Green Meadows Farm: This family-owned Monticello farm has been open to the public since 2008, said owner Delores Green. You can pick the organic, rabbiteye blueberries on five acres of land, where you can also enjoy birds and catch deer sightings. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays starting May 29. Delories said she anticipates the season will last through June. The farm is taking precautions like placing markers to social distance when pickers go to weigh and pick their berries and staff will wear masks. It costs $5 a pound for the berries. You can pay by cash or check. Green Meadows isn’t selling food products at this time. “It’s all about picking blueberries this year,” said Delores. But you can still pick up her cookbook with blueberry treats and other recipes for $10 or order it through localharvest.org. 117 E. Bluebird Rd., Monticello; 850-997-4886.
Jubilee Orchards: You have lots of blueberry picking options at Jubilee. You can now pick blueberries daily from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 to 7:30 p.m. daily. Jubilee has a late abundant crop of their sweetest berry, Farthing, so the orchard has reduced its prices to $5 per pound till the end of the season. You can grab a sanitized bucket and stop by the handwashing station before entering and exit. You can also buy pre picked berries at Jubilee Orchards or get them delivered. Delivery days are currently 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Customers are asked to leave a cooler outside their front door. Visit app.barn2door.com/e/94K85/all to find out more about deliveries and pickup. Jubilee’s season is expected to go till the end of May. The farm store won’t be open this year and no food and entertainment activities because of the coronavirus. Too bad because Jubilee Orchards is filled with so much history. The plantation was purchased in 1990 by former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles. His restored 1840s era log cabin is dubbed the “Cook Shack.” The orchard is owned by Chiles’ son Bud and his wife Kitty, who grow Southern highbush blueberry varieties. 12008 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-385-7800.
Farmers’ markets and Red Hills Small Farm Alliance: If you’re not interested in picking blueberries but love fresh, from-the-farm berries, you can find them at our local farmers’ markets. For a list of markets, see tallahasseetable.com/tallahassees-farmers-markets/ You can also order blueberries through the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance Online Market at rhomarket.com/ (Because of so much demand, the market is not currently accepting new members but you can sign up on the waiting list. It’s expected they will be opening membership soon). Handsome Harvest farm is taking orders for farm baskets that currently include blueberries at handsomeharvest.square.site/ For more about joining the online market and to see a list of local farmers’ markets please see this story at tallahasseetable.com/tallahassees-farmers-markets/
Here are some tips about blueberry picking from local farmers and the site pickyourown.org:
- Once picked, don’t place the berries, still warm from the sun, in a closed bag or container. Leave the container open so moisture doesn’t form in the container.
- Don’t wash berries until just before using, to prevent berries from becoming mushy.
- Chill berries when you get home, advises Jubilee Orchards. Store your fresh blueberries in the refrigerator when you get them home, without washing them, in a covered bowl or storage container. If refrigerated, fresh-picked blueberries will keep 10 to 14 days.
- Freeze berries in freezer containers without washing to keep the skins from toughening. Place berries one layer deep. Freeze, then pour the frozen berries into freezer containers. Both frozen and fresh berries should be rinsed and drained just before serving in cold water.
- Blueberries vary in density but here are some approximate figures: one pound of fresh blueberries is usually between about two and three cups of berries. One gallon of blueberries weighs about 7.5 pounds.
- It takes about 4 cups of blueberries to make a blueberry pie.
- A normal batch of blueberry preserves, jam or jelly requires five pints of berries.