Thrilling Things I Love

26 Aug

Before I moved to Michigan I lived in north Texas.  I think everyone should live in Texas at least once.  It’s a great state.  But that is not actually the subject of this week’s Things I Love.  Maybe some other day.  Probably sometime in February, that’s certainly when I miss the Lone Star State the most.

But right now it’s 77-degrees.  The Michigan landscape is lush and gorgeous.  The Unsalted Beach is only 45 minutes away.  And my very favorite part of a Lake Effect Summer is just wrapping up.

You see, when I was getting ready to move up here a Texan who had once been a Michigander said, “Oh, Michigan – they have the best fruit.”  At the time I thought that was a really odd comment.  I was more accustomed to the “Oh, Michigan – hope you like snow,” and “Oh, Michigan – so, you’ll be working in the auto industry, now?” and “Oh, Minnesota – that’s the one with all the lakes.  What?  You said Michigan?  Well, they’re pretty much the same thing, right?”

But the fruit?  That was new.  And today I am happy to report that he was absolutely right:  We have the best fruit here!  In the interest of giving other fruits fair play (and possibly to save some topics for later) the title of today’s post is:

Things I Love:  Blueberries

Oh, blueberries, blueberries, blueberries!  This is my eleventh summer of blueberry bliss.  Starting the summer I first moved here I filled my fridge with pint after pint as soon as the stores put them on sale.  I bragged to my sister about their juiciness and sweetness.  I assured my mother that it wasn’t necessary to take out a loan just because I wanted to make my cereal look like the serving suggestion on the box.  It was Grand (Rapids.)

And then last summer we discovered the even greater secret of West Michigan – You Pick Blueberries.  Oh!  The only thing better than popping a handful of big, juicy berries in your mouth is doing so straight off the bush.

That is the chubby paw of a not-yet-two-year-old hard at work.

Blueberry picking is so easy that even young boys and twin-laden women can do it.  The purplish orbs fall right into your palm.  The only trick is making sure they land in the bucket and not the ground.  Even at the priciest orchards they’re a better deal than in the stores and this year we learned about something so great I hesitate to mention it here.

(Obligatory Hesitational Pause)

Okay, fine, you win:   There’s a blueberry patch that sells them for $0.40 a pound.  You read that right, no misplaced decimal points here.  But honestly, that’s not even the best part of the deal.  The real whipped cream on this this bowl of berries is the farmer who owns the place – Wayne.  What a dear, sweet, bachelor farmer.  Okay, so that bachelor part is pure conjecture, I just like the ring of it.

That's Farmer Wayne getting the empty bellied weight on Thomas.

The first time we picked he weighed the boys on his old-fashioned scale and then told them with a wink he would be weighing them after picking to charge them for all the berries they ate.  He picked the entire three hours with us, and at the end of the afternoon gave us his six pound bucket full.  His bushes are 66 years old, the newest vehicle he’s ever owned is a 1978, and summer is his favorite season because that’s when all his company comes.

Due to Wayne’s unbelievable generosity and my over-zealous need for fruit we picked 35 lbs. of blueberries over the last month or so.   Remember, that total is only the You Pick berries.  There were many little clamshells that followed me home from the store, as well.

I set a New Month’s Resolution to eat fresh blueberries on my cereal for breakfast every day in July and except for the one day when I had fresh raspberries instead, I kept it.

I still have about five pounds worth in the fridge.  Some of them are due to enter a pie later today, and then the final ones will join the other coated in sugar (because Cooks Illustrated said so) and lying patiently in the freezer for us to enjoy later.

So this winter when every ounce of me is longing for the warmth found deep in the heart of Texas I’ll just reach into the  heart of my deep freeze, which will likely be balmy compared to the outside, and pull out a reminder of the goodness of Michigan in the summer.

You should move here. Well, unless you already live here. Or Texas.

Maybe I’ll also bring Wayne some muffins.

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2 Responses to “Thrilling Things I Love”

  1. Christine August 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Beautifully written and photographed. Informative too. Who knew about the freezing the berries with a coat of sugar? Not me. I hope my naked berries will survive their deep-freeze.

    • Christina August 27, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      I just hope mine are okay and that it was worth all the sugar. It made them awfully pretty, though.

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