This summer has been a banner year for blueberries – lots of blackflies in the Spring to pollinate, and lots of rain to help them grow. As a consequence I have been involved in several blueberry picking expeditions here at the lake. Each time I was out there I thought about blogging about it – it’s a fascinating activity, after all…
If you’ve never picked blueberries, read on. You might learn something about the
sport art of blueberry picking. If you have, well, you’re not going to learn anything, but you might have flashbacks. Sorry.
It all starts when you pick up the
elders others who are going to join you. Choose carefully. You must like them a lot, and they must either know “the code” or be able to pick up on “the code” without being told directly. (Ok, from now on just do air quotes whenever I say “the code”.) If they don’t know the code, you’re in for a very irritating experience. The two elders in this photo taught me the code, so they’re cool.
Then you have to go to the secret location. If it’s not secret, you’d better hope you’re first, otherwise, you’re pooched. The best berries will be long gone. After a few days of berry picking season, once others have also started, you really need to start to investigate the crown land (don’t ever pick on someone’s property, even if they’re related … picking someone else’s berries is tantamount to theft and you will go straight to hell). If your fellow pickers are a bit more lithe (under 65 is good) you can have them hop out of the boat and do a quick looksee. This is what you want them to see:
There needs to be a LOT of berries to make it worthwhile – or at least a reasonable amount of BIG berries – otherwise it’s going to be a long berry picking session.
Note: Leave your phone in the boat or you will be treated as a teenager, chastised for being tethered to your phone (and the temptation to take photos will slowly overpower your will to keep picking, let’s face it…).
Once you’re out there picking, you’d better have a lot to think about, because it’s fucking boring as hell. It take a LONG time to pick blueberries, even when they’re big. And if the boredom doesn’t get you, there are other things that will:
– the incessant chatter of the person close to you
– the fact that someone has come along and has started picking IN YOUR PATCH (this only happens with rookies) – when that happens, try not to lose your mind – just move on gracefully, you can be mature!
– the insidious heat (berries like the sun, and since part of the code is to wear long pants & shirts, shoes and a hat, you’re going to be dying)
– the ENORMOUS horseflies (ignore them or soon you’ll be thrashing about, increasing your body temp even more)
– the pain (deep squats or bending over happens every 15 seconds. If you haven’t worked out in a few months/years/decades, you start daydreaming about laying in savasana.)
– dropping a berry that is PERFECT (do NOT search for it… omg such a rookie move)
– knocking over your entire basket (this can lead to weeping so don’t be stupid and set your basket on a rock … always wedge it in somewhere)
– hearing rustling in the bushes (a bear? a snake?) – do not use your imagination – consider the creature to be your competition and pick on
Throughout the berry picking there is often lively banter from patch to patch. Don’t be distracted from the fact that people are in a masterfully discreet competition. Best patch, most berries. Period. You have to FOCUS.
And for Christ’s sake, don’t step on the berries! (Crucial part of the code – almost forgot to tell you this…)
Once you think that you have
suffered picked enough, it’s time to see if the others are feeling the same way WITHOUT ASKING THEM OUTRIGHT. Part of the code is that you don’t complain and you can’t be the one who has had enough. So this is a careful move. Pick your way back to the boat. If you’re with an elder, one of them will likely be there already. But if you’re with folks in your generation, you want to navigate this next step fairly carefully. Of course, you also need to have more berries than them, so keep that in mind. If you’ve got more, then just go for a skinny dip or check your phone (to make sure the kids are ok). Someone will eventually suggest it’s time to go. If there’s thunder, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to leave. Anything other than that and you’re a wuss. If you haven’t got more, you might want to double back and top up your basket. Depends on what you’re made of.
Once you’re in the boat people invariably congratulate the best picker on their prowess (while secretly noting that they also have more leaves, red berries and stems in their basket).
And you leave.
Go back to the cottage, take note of the location – maybe even mark it on the lake map so that you remember for next year – and start “cleaning” the berries for eating, baking or the freezer.
And now you Bake Bake Bake! Here is one of my favorite things to bake with blueberries: blueberry crumb cake (with a shit ton of berries in it).
I have also made a LOT of blueberry muffins (see a previous post). They are the same flavor as the crumb cake – just not as many berries or as much sugar.
My most recent discovery is bluberry boy bait (buttery and seriously amazing). At the time it was too amazing to take a photo of. Try it out!
Note that ALL of these recipes are from my fav blog, the smittenkitchen.