I have a confession to make. Before last weekend I had never eaten a blueberry that didn't come from the grocery store. I never thought much about it and didn't think I was missing out on anything. Oh, how wrong I was! My cousins are lucky enough to live across the street from a blueberry farm and have been going every summer to pick berries for years. I've always heard about Betty's Blueberry Farm, but never made plans to actually go until last Saturday.
Second confession--I am not one of those people that feels comfortable eating fruit without washing it thoroughly (I'm a bit of a germaphobe) and when Betty said to be sure to taste while we were picking (the farm does not spray their bushes with chemicals), I was thinking there's no way I was going to eat an unwashed berry. I don't know if it was the warmth of the summer sun, or the fact that everyone was trying the berries, but before I knew it, there I was eating blueberries straight from the bush and they were the best blueberries I had ever tasted in my life!
My cousin, his friend and I picked for about two hours, filling up two medium-sized baskets. My cousin showed me how to tell the difference between the perfectly ripe and the "not quite ready to pick" berries (I was shocked to learn that the deepest blue berries aren't necessarily the best). They almost get a white tone to them when they are perfectly ripe. Who knew?
I was impressed with how many berries we'd picked until we ran into a couple of gentlemen that had filled up two roasting pans with blueberries. I asked them if they planned to make pies with them and they said no, they are just going to freeze them so they can enjoy the local blueberries well past the prime harvest season. When I got back to the farm's entrance to pay, I was shocked that my full basket of berries cost only five dollars. I saw some pints being sold for more than that at the grocery store last week! Since I had such a bounty of berries, I thought I'd make some blueberry muffins or a pie when I got home, but these berries taste so good on their own that I decided to enjoy them in their purest form, one handful at a time.
For more information on Betty's Blueberry Farm, located in Wilmer, Ala., visit http://www.bettysberryfarm.com/. If you're wanting to take a trip out to the farm yourself, be sure to wear closed-toe shoes, as you never know what sort of critters you may encounter while picking (I saw nothing scary, but ants are extra prevalent since we've been getting a lot of rain). Also, it's best to go either really early in the morning, or late in the afternoon/early evening. I went picking around 5:30 p.m. and noticed a lot more people arrived even closer to 6:30 p.m. Finally, be sure to bring cash, as the farm is not able to accept credit or debit cards. If you want to pick some berries of your own, just be sure to hurry on out to the farm before you miss the peak of the season!