Wanna go blueberry picking? my friend Nadira, the acclaimed international woman of mystery of our group, said to me. As we sat sipping our chilled white wine at “One” located in the meatpacking district on Little West 12th, eyeing the DJ covered with psychedelic flowered tattoos. The Reggaeton beat was vibrating through floor boards and up through our bar stools.
I found this to be a curious proposition on her part as I replied, “You’re kidding right?”, eyeing her elegant three inch suede pumps. Her wild contagious laughter rang out, over the blasting music as she assured me that she wasn’t pulling my leg. “Come, you’ll love it, it’s so peaceful! Then we can go to my place and bake some yummy tarts!” she said, her eyes gleaming.
Knowing how much Nadira loves food, I nodded my head thoughtfully – letting my mind drift on the scent of freshly baked blueberry muffins, perhaps a blueberry butter cake or even a cocktail made with macerated blueberries. So we packed up our men, our sunscreen, and hit the road to Terhune Orchards, located in Princeton, NJ, about an hour and a half drive away.
After about an hour or so of straight highway, we found ourselves enjoying the scenery of surrounding farms. Passing by other boutique farms, I was surprised by the manicured grounds surrounding most of the farmland.
After Nadira and I gathered buckets from the farm’s general store, we headed out into the blazing hot fields. We approached a large plot of land covered with sprawling bushes protected entirely by bird netting. Blankly, I stared at the way each cluster of berries dangled from their branches. Reaching out to touch the perfect purple globes, I was reminded how rare it is – as Americans at least – to see the way our food actually grows. I will never forget the first time I saw a live pig and made a cure for pork bellies half the size of my own body.
As I admired the color and shape of each berry, I could see why they are sometimes called star berries. Here you can see them, showing off their little star-shaped bottoms, like a set of little frilly bloomers.
Out of curiosity, I popped one into my mouth expecting it to taste much better than the store bought version. As I munched, I noted that the texture was definitely different, the flavor somewhat sweeter, but not drastically different from its store-bought brethren. The same cannot be said for other fruits and vegetables, but I think blueberries are truly hearty by nature and do well when grown commercially.
As we headed to the blackberry bushes, I waved my husband over, a.k.a. the human ladder, to reach for the coveted ripe berries at the very top of the bushes. The short pickers in our group could only admire these gems from a distance. After a few short hours, heads, faces and mouth were parched by the noon-time sun. We packed up our quarts of berries, and headed down the road for the air-conditioned haven of a perky lunch-time café in town.