Pick me a blueberry...."
So starts Bruce Degen's delightful rhyming children's story, Jamberry. Both of my girls love the journey of a boy and a bear picking various kinds of berries for a "jam jamboree." Daughter #2 even enjoys the end of the book, hearing of Degen's personal account of picking berries with his grandparents, and making pies and jams, and eating fresh washed berries.
My Ohio sister and her three children started us on an annual pilgrimage for blueberries. When Daughter #1 was very young--one or two--we picked with their family out there. She loved it! Spent most of her time picking the berries and popping them into her mouth!
Now, because of the timing of our larger family reunion vacation at the beach, my sister's family misses going picking at their local farm. So, they have moved the tradition to Virginia. Whoever stays with us after the beach can enjoy--given a proper growing season--some very fine berry picking.
This year, we picked some 40 pounds of blueberries! Eleven of us, ages 3 to 70, filled up bucket after bucket of big juicy blues. Never mind that the bushes are so thick that you can hardly see the person next to you.Or that you have to don hats and sunscreen to ward off the hot sun and brush aside the hungry Japanese beetles to find the bursting blue blobs on the inside twigs.
It's all about the hunt! The biggest bluest berries mean the sweetest, fruitiest treats!
Daughter #2 amazed me with her interest and focus, filling up half a bucket by herself (and most of them were actually blue berries--not too many white, pink or pale green ones). Daughter #1 was on a personal quest to "beat Grandma," and, with some help from her cousin, topped the bucket for the first time ever!
And what does one do with 40 pounds of blueberries?! First, you try to send as many as possible away, because storing that many blueberries robs you of fridge and freezer space! Truly, as the family reunion tour rolls to northern locations, the blueberries travel, too.
Second, if you are fortunate enough to have nieces and nephews who love to cook, you are quickly graced with blueberry buckle, blueberry nut bread, blueberry pies, blueberry sauce, and blueberry muffins and pancakes!
Third, those blueberries the family throws back into your fridge, because their cars are overloaded, are soon washed, bagged and frozen. They'll make an appearance in a blueberry pie or cobbler around Thanksgiving--a reminder of God's bounty in an "off-season" for the berry. (I freeze cranberries in December and serve them up in muffins come Spring and Summer, too.)
"Mountains and fountains
Rain down on me
Buried in berries
What a jam jamboree!"