While preparing my next post, I came across these photos taken while picking blueberries a few weeks ago.
I was not aware of any organic farms in the area until another food blog led me to this discovery. I was suddenly overwhelmed by all my options. I knew I had to get my hands on these organic and farmed raised foods. I made plans to go to Monticello the next day before all the blueberries were gone since the picking season was almost over. I knew my fiancé would have no problem coming along to help since blueberries are his favorite.
The farm I chose to visit first is owned by a retired couple, Ronny & Delores, who enjoy providing organic foods to locals. They had a cute personal garden, complete with a little white fence to keep any mischievous creatures at bay, next to their home. The blueberry bushes in the "backyard" were too numerous to count; many more than I expected. Delores was glad to see some new faces, but warned us most of the plump, juicy ones were gone. She did say we'd probably get lucky since we can reach the top of the bushes (we're both pretty tall) and get the ones others have to leave behind. She gave us two wooden baskets and we were off!
I was afraid we'd have to scour the land for some good bushes, but we were able to find plenty of berries on the first row we came to. The bushes were still producing new buds, too.
The best thing about picking from organic farms is the all-you-can-eat policy! It's a wonderful thing seeing where your food comes from.
Another bonus to getting to know your farmers is the community they are a part of. I was able to snag some fresh eggs from a nearby farm who leaves a few cartons daily with Delores.
Opening the carton felt like unwrapping a Christmas present. Each egg was a different color and size and shape. They're beautiful. It's also a good feeling knowing these eggs came from hens who are healthy, happy, and well taken care of. Ironically, when I was a little girl, I had access to fresh eggs, but was afraid of them. I thought they were dirty since they were plucked from a nest and did not look bright white like the ones from the grocery store. I might have started eating differently a lot sooner if my family had taken the time to explain to me the value of fresh foods. I found my way though, so it has all worked out.
When we got home, I washed and froze the blueberries right away. Instead of throwing them all in a bag, I found a great tip online: dry the blueberries after washing and spread them out on a cookie sheet (with a lip preferably); then place the sheet in the freezer until the blueberries are firm. Then they can be stored in a bag. By taking this extra step, they will not be frozen in a big clump and you can take only the amount you need when it's time to use them. This came in handy when baking cheesecake for the 4th of July (the eggs I also used in the recipe are the ones you see above).
We gathered 2 lbs that day, and still have 1 1/2 lbs left. I would hate to use them all up so quickly, but it's very tempting. When we go next year, I'll be ready early so we can get twice as much.