Berry, Berry Good!
I recently spent a week in Portland with my daughters. We had a great time, like always, and did all kinds of fun activities, including berry picking! Berry picking is something we have done many times, especially when the girls were little. I home-schooled for a few years when we lived in Portland, and we picked berries every summer as we learned about plants and how they grow. At the time, my girls loved a children’s book by Robert McCloskey, “Blueberries For Sal”, about a little girl and her mom and a baby bear and his mom who all went Blueberry picking on Blueberry Hill. Robert McClosky was a wonderful writer of stories for kids in the late 1940’s. I highly recommend all his books for your kids or grandkids!
So as we reminisced about our home-schooling days, we made our way just north of Portland to an organic U-Pick farm on Sauvie Island. Bella Organics is a friendly U-pick farm with a farmer’s market store, a winery, a petting zoo, a corn maze (in the fall) and fields and fields of organic berry bushes and produce of all kinds. Go to their website and check them out! www.bellaorganic.com.
We checked in, got our buckets and rode the shuttle a few blocks away to the field of blueberry bushes. It was around 10 am and we basically had the whole field to ourselves. The thing about a field of blueberry bushes though, is that you only need one row of bushes to fill your buckets! There were ripe, juicy berries everywhere you looked. It’s hard to STOP picking them!
Within about 30 minutes we had two, half full buckets, six pounds! These blueberries were easy to pick because the bushes were at eye-level height and they have no thorns. We got back on the shuttle to return to the farm and decided to go for some organic blackberries too! The kind staff at the store put our blueberries in the fridge to keep them fresh and off we went. The blackberry field was within walking distance and with empty buckets in hand, we came upon the bushes adorned with huge, juicy blackberries!
The bushes just started to turn out ripe berries and they practically jumped into our buckets! They were special bushes without thorns, so they were easy to pick too! They were sweet and warm from the sun! Six pounds later, we were back at the store, ready to pack up and head home.
So, what do you do with 12 pounds of fresh berries? So glad you asked! First, we made gluten free blueberry scones with a fresh lemon glaze. Recipe here.
The rest of the blueberries we flash froze and put in freezer bags for later use. Flash freezing is where the berries are spread out on a cookie sheet and frozen in a single layer, then put into sealable freezer bags. It keeps the berries from sticking together in a big clump. Frozen blueberries are delightful to eat on a hot day! By the way blueberries are the king of the antioxidants, high in vitamin C, Manganese, fiber, and are considered a super brain food!
Here is another way to use blueberries, courtesy of Pizzeria Otto in Portland! This pizza was eye-catching and amazingly delicious!
Now for the blackberries! Did you know that blackberries are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and are good for your heart and brain? Half of them were cooked down with a little coconut sugar and a pinch of salt and made into blackberry jam! Blackberries are high in natural pectin, so we didn’t need to add anything artificial. Pectin is what gives jams and jellies their thickness. Coconut sugar is lower on the glycemic index, so it doesn’t spike your insulin like regular sugar and it has a delicious caramel type flavor. Recipe here.
Next we poured the jam in sterilized jars and canned them in the pressure cooker. In 20 minutes, they were sealed and ready for travel. (I wanted to bring a jar home to Phoenix!) This step is easily skipped if the jars are refrigerated.
Our berry picking day was one to remember! The “fruits” of our labor were delicious and healthy! Maybe there is a u-pick farm near where you live, or maybe plan a trip to Portland in the summer. Either way, get out in the fresh air and have fun!