On Saturday, I packed the family into the car and took off for a Rogersville blueberry farm. It was a place I’d visited last year for a story — but on that day it was all work, photos and interviews and close observation. I wasn’t able to pick berries, though I recall that I surreptitiously sampled one and found it tangy and delicious.
Saturday was my turn to pick, and I was eager to give it a try. I grew up in deep woods with lots of blackberries and, my favorite, black raspberries, but I’d never picked blueberries before.
All berries feel a little bit different to pick, like the mulberry, which is usually found overhead and requires a harder pull and a little snap of the stem, which remains in the fruit. But bend to pick a beautiful ripe black raspberry and it cleanly exits its stem so you can see its perfect round interior and understand why some old-timers call it thimbleberry.
Picking any fruit is a little bit hypnotic, whether you’re twisting a ripe apple from its stem or you’re bending to harvest strawberries. These blueberries were especially pleasurable to pick. They grow in little clusters, and typically some green starts of berries will exist alongside almost-ripe red berries and the plump, dusty-blue berries we’re there for.
I found that I could caress a cluster and the ripe berries would fall right into my bucket without resistance or harm, while leaving the not-quite-ready berries unbothered.
Blueberries — or at least these blueberries — are also very easy to reach. My son liked sitting on the ground in the shade of the bushes to pick, but I thought it was nice to be able to stand and select the topmost fruits. I believe there are different types of blueberries — highbush and lowbush varieties, they’re called — and these must have been the highbush kind, since I could stand, straight-backed, and harvest away.
Young pickers didn’t require a lot of supervision, I found — by which I mean you can keep just one eye on them instead of a hawklike pair. This, too, helped me to get into the hypnotic berry zone.
Saturday was beautiful, though hot and very humid, and I fell into a quiet, rhythmic motion. Doing anything repetitively sends me right into a reflective mode, and as I was enjoying a berry-tinged meditation, my bucket was growing heavier and heavier. It didn’t take long to fill my bucket, and then to overfill it, nearly to the top of the plastic zipper bag that lined it.
I ended up with seven pounds of berries, six-and-a-half of which I picked myself. I haven’t eaten seven pounds of blueberries in all 50 years of my life, I’m certain, but I walked toward the checkout sure that I didn’t have nearly enough.
The place — the Black and Blue Berry Farm at 5313 Farm Road 241, Rogersville —had a comfortable barn for sitting, and they offered two kinds of lemonade, blueberry or lavender, which is also grown on site. I had a mix of the two, as well as some blueberry ice cream, which my son claimed was the best ice cream he had ever tasted.
It’s a lot of fun to try something new every week, whether that’s crocheting a scarf or picking a bucket of blueberries. Maybe next week I’ll report on what it’s like to make blueberry bread, and what trick I employed to keep all of those fat berries from sinking to the bottom of the pan. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I have blueberries on my sunbaked brain for a while.