By Colleen Mahoney
Blueberry season is back, and despite the dry summer, the harvest is good. With a handful of local blueberry farms in the area, spending a day picking the sweet and tart fruit is as easy as blueberries are delicious.
According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, the blueberry season runs from April to October, with peak picking in the summer months. In Western New York, blueberries are most active from Aug. 1 through Sept. 10, says the New York Harvest Calendar. Locally, farms from Allegany to East Otto offer you-pick opportunities for blueberry lovers.
Dave Pepper, owner of Pepper’s Blueberry Hill Farm in Franklinville, said they opened for the season about two weeks ago. Opened from dawn to dusk daily, Pepper’s Blueberry Hill Farm often runs on the “honor system,” charging $1 per pound of blueberries. Pepper said his crop is “fantastic” this year, boasting 13 different varieties of blueberries and almost 4,000 bushes.
“There is a blueberry for everyone … I always use the apple analogy,” he said. “I ask people if they like apples, then if they like all apples or just one variety. Blueberries are the same way.”
Pepper said he meets a lot of customers who don’t know there are different varieties of blueberries and he encourages them to wander around the path trying the different types.
“There are different flavors … different tastes,” Pepper said. “Not a lot of people realize that, but just because you ate one blueberry and didn’t like it … doesn’t mean you don’t like blueberries.”
Of his 13 varieties, Pepper said he has some that are sweet and grow big, and others that are more tart and don’t grow very big. The smaller ones, he noted, are usually better for pies or recipes that call for sugar.
“The smaller ones don’t always look as good in the basket because they’re not big and bountiful,” Pepper said. “But they’re good and they’re packed with antioxidants.”
According to Pepper, the smaller varieties have almost twice the amount of antioxidants as the bigger blueberries. Antioxidants are natural substances that help prevent or delay certain cell damage and reduce the risk of disease. In addition to the antioxidants, blueberries can also help reduce blood pressure, prevent heart disease and improve memory.
“I’m turning 46 this week … people don’t believe that, I say it’s because of all the blueberries I eat,” Pepper laughed.
“My dad, he’s 70 … there’s gotta be something in the blueberries we’ve been eating all our lives.”
To learn more about Pepper’s Blueberry Hill Farm, call 307-0903 or find them on Facebook.
Burdick’s Offers Blueberry Tomatoes
Indigo Blueberries, a variety of grape tomato, also include antioxidants, which is one of the reasons Beth Strasser and Amy Edwards decided to grow them at Burdick Blueberries in Cattaraugus.
Strasser said she and Edwards, who are on their second year of operating the family blueberry patch, decided to grow some interesting vegetables this year.
“It was tradition to have some vegetables at the farm in the past,” Strasser said. “We thought about what would be unique to mix in with the flowers.”
In addition to the Indigo Blueberries, Burdick’s will be offering Rattlesnake Pole Beans and Violet Beans, as well as that unique “you-cut” fresh flower garden.
Of course, Burdick’s also offers acres of you-pick blueberries.
Strasser said that Burdick Blueberries has seen a lot of success with their crop this year. They were able to open on July 13, which is “record early” for them. The warm summer and plentiful sunshine has helped to get the blueberries ready.
“We seem to be getting rainfall when we absolutely need it,” Strasser said. “We’re happy this has been a much better season for us … it’s warm and there is a lot of sunshine.”
Burdick’s Blueberries is open daily, from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., though they recommend calling or checking in on Facebook before visiting. Depending on the bushes, they sometimes close for a day or two to allow more berries to ripen. For more information on Burdick’s Blueberries, visit them on Facebook, call 257-9760 or visit BurdickBlueberries.net.
For even more blueberry picking options, visit www.pickyourown.org/nywest.htm.