Posted on by linnea

The past few weeks I have regularly been in a position to eat as many blueberries as I want. Believe me, this is a quite the dangerous situation. I had my last official day in the blueberry patch on Thursday and I frantically ate at least a quart of berries in the thirty minutes I was given to “pick for cart”. It’s feast or famine, people.Blueberries are a big cash crop for the Farm, grossing about $10,000 annually between wholesale markets (campus dining services and local grocery stores) and direct sales (Farm cart and the CSA) from just a quarter acre of plants. Blueberries are also completely irresistible, and even your most law-abiding citizen is not to be trusted near a bush dripping with ripe berries. For that reason, the whole patch is enclosed by bird netting with the front door under lock and key. This tactic (somewhat) successfully keeps out winged and land-bound intruders. Though few determined birds find their way in every week, to gorge themselves in the land of endless blueberry delight.Blueberries naturally grow in and on the edges of forest ecosystems and require soils significantly more acid than those found on the farm. To address the pH issue an automated system mixes concentrated vinegar with municipal water and delivers the cocktail to the plants through the standard irrigation lines in the blueberry patch. The blueberries were planted in 2004 as an experimental plot to determine which varieties performed the best in the Santa Cruz climate. Fourteen different blueberries varieties were trialled, and Southmoon, O’Neal, Sapphire and Santa Fe have apparently stood out the most for hardiness and flavor.We pick the blueberries by hand. The ripest berries come loose easily when touched, so you hardly have to look where you are picking. On the most productive plants you can grab handfuls of berries and drop them with a satisfying “plunk-plunk” into a plastic picking bucket worn round the neck. Two and a half quarts of sun-warmed blueberries hanging heavy on your neck feels like quite the accomplishment. We package the berries in flats of half-pint containers by hand, pouring in one layer at a time to quickly sort out the under/over-ripe berries. Ah blueberries, so very beautiful. The season is short and I’m determined to make myself sick of blueberries by the end of it. I want to eat blueberries all the ways. Cobbler! Pancakes! Pie! And of course, by the handful.

2 Responses to Bluebs

  1. Jeremy says:

    Hi Linnea! So this is the apprenticeship you told us about. Looks like your having a good time and learning a lot. Are these plants mulched with pine needles?

    • linnea says:

      Hi Jeremy! They aren’t mulched with pine needles, but a vinegar solution is pumped through the irrigation lines to keep the pH of the soil appropriately acidic.

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