I'll willingly skip a day at the beach or a sail around the lake...for me it's worth the hour long drive and the simmering heat to be out there in the fields - picking buckets of delectable, sweet and tart, sun-warmed, OMG I just can't eat enough of these super-fruits: organic blueberries.
At the organic blueberry farm where I regularly pick each July - Emery's Certified Organic Blueberry Farm in New Egypt, New Jersey** - there are 20 acres of blueberry bushes spread out in all directions. Amidst the rows of high bushes you are surrounded by the scent of summer, the faint buzz of baby bees, and the laughter of children a few rows over. If you get your timing just right - early morning; mid-week - you can sometimes get the blueberry field almost entirely to yourself. One year it was only me and another lone picker just a few rows over. After a while I realized he was quietly reciting bible verses to himself. "Peculiar," was my initial thought. But then I realized, what could be more apropos? This field is just heavenly.
Wild Blueberries vs. Cultivated Blueberries
Wild blueberries do exist (it is the official fruit of the state of Maine), but "wild" is generally used as a marketing term. True wild blues are from a low bush plant. Almost all the blueberries harvested on farms today are from high-bush plants. This includes organic as well as conventional blues.
Conventional Blueberries vs. Organic Blueberries
No way do I want pesticides sprayed on MY blues!
According to the Environmental Working Group's analysis of pesticide residue on fruits, it was domestic blueberries in the U.S. which fared the worst - number 13 on the list - as opposed to imported blues, which came in at number 22.
So if you buy conventional as opposed to organic, be sure to seek out imported blueberries as they are safer for you to eat.
Each day on an organic blueberry farm - like any other organic farm - is a routine of fertilization, irrigation, pest management and weeding.
But there is also a science to organic blueberries; it isn't simply about avoiding herbicides and pesticides. The soil integrity is essential to a good crop: healthy soil equals a healthy plant equals healthy fruit. The berries I pick are particularly nutrient dense - referred to as the BRIX content - and it represents the calibration of the glucose content in the fruit; which indicates its' nutrient value.
As a result, organic blueberries really are healthier. If you're looking for a superfruit, this is the real deal. Blueberries are a superlative source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and manganese.
Linked to the prevention of such ailments as cancer, inflammatory conditions, Alzheimer’s disease and urinary tract infections; blueberries are also credited with helping to lower cholesterol and blood sugar, and supporting memory function. There are even studies being done which link blueberries with the treatment of depression. Indeed, one visit to a blueberry farm is all it takes to lift the spirits. But, if you go just once to pick your own, you won’t be able to stay away, and will wait all year for those few months when you can indulge in this simple, and delicious, pleasure.
I even bring home enough to freeze, simply rolling them into ziplock bags and laying them flat in the freezer. They see me into the Fall, filling muffins and pies, and topping yogurt and cereal. Summer never ends when the freezer is full of blueberries.
**Emery's is a Certified Organic farm, however there are many farms that follow organic methods. Check out the North American Blueberry Council's website for U Pick Information in your area: http://www.nabcblues.org/upick.htm Another good site is http://www.pickyourown.org/
***Blueberries and Oxalates
Blueberries are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating blueberries.