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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blueberry Bonanza

Luscious, ripe Patriot blueberries at
Big Bend Berries in Garden Valley
One day, Little Sal went with her mother to Blueberry Hill to pick
blueberries..."We will take our berries home and can them," said her mother.
"Then we will have food for the winter.
from Blueberries for Sal
by Robert McCloskey

Like Little Sal and her mother, I have been busy picking and storing up blueberries for the winter. Three trips to Big Bend Berries (673-8767 for more information) have yielded 30 pounds of berries. Those we haven't eaten fresh have been packed in plastic bags and frozen to be used throughout the year.

Blueberries are a superfood--full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals--and so easy to pick and to store. They don't even need to be washed before freezing; it actually toughens the skins. Just fill the bags, seal, label and freeze. When you're ready to use them, just put the frozen berries in a colander and give them a quick rinse.

If you've never picked your own fruit before, blueberries are a great place to start. No bending, no thorns, no ladders! I use the bucket-on-a-belt method for the fastest picking. Just thread an old belt through the handle of a small, sturdy bucket and fasten around your waist or over one shoulder. That way you have both hands free to pick. I like the 10 lb. detergent buckets with the metal handle. The small, plastic ice cream tubs are fine for children (who rarely get them full), but I have had the plastic handle break and then had to re-pick all of my berries out of the grass! I take along plastic dishpans to empty the berries into when the bucket gets full.

Local blueberries are available at Big Bend Berries, Norris Farms and Haven Farms. Check the listings under Food in the classified section of the News-Review for details. If you don't have time to pick your own, Dillard Farm Market has pints and flats for sale at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market on Saturday mornings or at their produce stand in Dillard. Kruse Farms also has picked, local blueberries for sale.

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