If you’re driving through the Berkshires in August, you’re bound to come across a distinctive white banner with blue lettering beckoning visitors to come pick their own blueberries.
And it’s certainly worth a stop – after all, who doesn’t love blueberries? These wonder fruits, hailed for their many health benefits, are the star ingredient in pancakes and preserves, fruit smoothies and homemade pies.
If you’re coming from South County, one of the best spots is Windy Hill Farm on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington. Family owned, Dennis and Judy Mareb offer a full service garden center and a full acre of abundant blueberry bushes.
They’ve had a banner crop this year, thanks in part to select varieties of highbush blueberries that were available for picking at the end of June.
“We love having people come here and pick their own pints,” said owner Judy Mareb, during a recent stop.
The Marebs have netting that encloses the field to keep out birds, deer and bear from taking their fruit. Visitors pick up their pint-sized containers in the garden center and head up a winding pathway to the blueberry bushes.
The season extends for another week or so, with many bushes still yielding abundant fruit.
Typically families usually pick a few pints for eating, with per pint pricing going down when more than five pints are purchased at a time, Mareb said.
Windy Hill doesn’t spray their fruit with pesticides or fungicides. Unlike some other fruit, the berries are easy to reach for kids – even toddlers. And blueberries will continue to ripen after being picked.
Whitney’s Farm Stand
Up the road a bit, Whitney’s Farm Stand in Cheshire is a third-generation farm (and full service garden center) that is also in the u-pick biz. The first blueberry bushes were planted 20 years ago, with the bushes maturing enough to pick about eight years ago, according to owner Eric Whitney.
The average family will pick “from a pint to a quart, with some picking up 20 to 30 pounds at a time,” Whitney said.
New varieties of blueberry bushes were recently planted that should extend the season in the years ahead.
Looking for a u-pick spot near you? Check out this interactive map from Berkshire Grown at berkshiregrown.org.
Scrumptious Blueberry Recipes
After your blueberry picking adventure, get the kids involved by whipping up a few delicious treats they can help with. And while blueberry muffins are a true classic, there are other options to consider, such as cobbler and jam. Here are two, courtesy of Windy Hill Farms.
Windy Hill Farm’s “Blueberry Freezer Jam”
Here’s what you need:
3 cups stemmed, washed and fully ripe blueberries
2 cups water divided
2 ½ cups sugar
1 box Sure Jell for Lower Sugar Recipes Fruit Pectin
Prepare containers: Rinse clean plastic container and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.
Place prepared blueberries in a food processor and pulse to evenly chop (puree setting.) Measure three cups of chopped blueberries into a large bowl. Stir in one cup water. Mix the sugar and pectin in a large saucepan. Stir in remaining one cup water until well blended. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute and remove from heat. Add blueberry mixture; stir one minute or until well blended.
Fill clean containers immediately to within ½” of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use.
Store in refrigerator for up to three weeks or freeze. Thaw in refrigerator before using.
350 degree oven
6 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp grated lemon rind.
Combine these ingredients in a greased 11” x 7” baking pan. Set aside.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
5 tbsp chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
3 tbsp milk or cream for brushing tops
Sugar for sprinkling
Sift flour together with sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sour cream to form a soft dough. Drop dough by spoonful onto blueberry filling to form eight dumplings. Brush dumplings with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 50 minutes or until filling is bubbly and dumplings are nicely browned. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
Looking for more culinary inspiration? Be sure to pick up a copy of Very Blueberry by local author Jennifer Trainer Thompson, with copies available at Windy Hill Farm or on Amazon.