You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!
- Blueberries, Robert Frost, 1874-1963
One of the things I loved to do for my children when they were small was to take them to various orchards and farms, so that they could see how different foods were grown and experience the joy of harvesting and eating freshly picked produce. We were adventurous enough to walk for miles to go blackberrying (ouch!) on an abandoned property; as well as visiting a trout farm and several pick-your-own cherry and apple orchards, and berry farms. Back at home after each visit, we would cook good things and enjoy the spoils of our bounty.
The Blueberry Farm, owned by the Patricks at Mundays Lane on the Barton Highway, was a particular favourite and a farm we visited often. Actually, the first full article I wrote for my newspaper column back then was an interview with Carol and Howard. Sadly, years of drought and the high cost of water has seen the end of that venture, which originally opened in 1983. I still treasure the little Blueberries cookbook that the Patricks gave me on my first meeting with them (see below) and the recipe featured in this snippet is one from that book.
Blueberry picking was fun and not at all difficult. We were handed little pails and instructed to cup our hands and gently run our fingers over bunches of berries, letting the ripe ones drop into the pail. It wasn't long before our pails were fully laden with plump berries. We picked so many blueberries on each visit that I always had containers of them in the freezer.
I love snacking on blueberries, especially frozen blueberries on a searing Summer's day. Blueberries not only taste good, they are, as my friend, nutritionist and writer, Catherine Saxelby, reminds us 'the nutrition powerhouse of the fruit world'. Wow! Catherine explains the health-giving benefits of blueberries in detail here.
If you are buying fresh blueberries, the Australian Blueberry Growers' Association recommends that you 'look for berries that are plump and full, with a light, powdery, greyish-blue bloom'. Blueberries freeze well, as I discovered, and also keep well in the refrigerator, however they are highly perishable at room temperature, so do keep them chilled. If you are planning to freeze blueberries, resist the urge to wash them before you freeze them. Just pop them straight into a freezer container and enjoy them throughout the year.
In the event that you are interested in picking fruit and vegetables, I found this interesting web site called Pick Your Own, which lists pick-your-own farms, roadside stalls, farmer's markets and the like in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Britain. There are also recipes and tips for picking, as well as preserving fruit and vegetables. The site seems quite comprehensive though I am not sure how up to date the information is, and note that there is a 'Correct a Listing' tab in the side bar.
So, here is my favourite blueberry muffin recipe. You will be surprised at how quickly you can throw these little babies together. Remember not to over mix your batter, or you will end up with Blueberry Rock Cakes! Incidentally, I have successfully frozen these muffins, but to be honest, they never usually last long enough.
FRESH BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1/4 cup (or perhaps a little less) melted butter*
1 cup low fat milk (or perhaps a little more)
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons caster sugar, to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Mix the flour, brown sugar and baking powder in a glass bowl. In a separate jug, whisk the egg together with the melted butter and the milk. Add to the flour mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon into paper muffin liners and sprinkle each with a little caster sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 12.
* When only the best will do! I used Pepe Saya butter.
Tell me about your fruit picking or farm adventures. What is your favourite fruit to pick and where do you like to go? What is your favourite blueberry recipe? Please pop in and let me know.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.