Hunting and Gathering

Accidental Locavore Picking BerriesHave you ever noticed that when people get together to do something like pick blueberries things change? The Accidental Locavore noticed last week, in the middle of a blueberry bush, that people pick blueberries and quietly chat. Recipes are swapped, children munch on many more berries than they pick and everyone is united in a simple task. Newcomers are happily told to go to certain areas or rows where there is an abundance of fruit. And it’s just a warm and sunny summer afternoon.

Compare this to the frenetic energy of the Manhattan Greenmarkets, where scoring the perfect box of blueberries, or anything else, can take on a death-match quality — people impatiently waving bills to get the farmer’s attention, while dogs and children get underfoot. At the farm, it’s peaceful, warm and a collaborative effort. And yes, as is almost traditional, a certain amount has to be tasted. A gentleman near me was explaining to his companion that the berries “closest to the sun are the sweetest” so of course, I had to see if his theory was correct (still testing).

Accidental Locavore High Bush BlueberriesFor me, picking high-bush blueberries is as close to a treat as picking blueberries can be. It’s been years since I was in Maine at the time when the wild blueberries are ripe. There the berries are tiny, hidden and nestled close to the ground. It helps to be short-kid-sized, so you don’t have to bend down too much, unless you can find a good bush and just sit down until it’s depleted. Wild blueberries are so small it takes a lot of them to fill up a cup for muffins, tons for a pie and loads of self discipline to make sure you come home with your little bucketful. The omnipresent mosquitoes literally tend to make it a blood sport but sometimes that just makes you pick faster!

Accidental Locavore Raspberry Blueberry PieSome people (and you know who you are) think that any blueberry that is larger than the head of a pin is an inferior product, but now having had them straight off the (high) bush, I still prefer the meatiness of a bigger berry. But you know, anything freshly picked and eaten right away is always the best — right? So what’s your favorite thing to do with blueberries? I’m going to remember to have my mother make a batch of blueberry corn muffins next week when I’m up in Maine and Frank will probably beg for a raspberry-blueberry pie!


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