We have a number of u-pick farms in the Triangle area. I chose Minka Farm in Efland, in rural Orange County. I had the pleasure of visiting this lovely place on the Piedmont Farm Tour - see my story here.
Since it's my first time picking, I thought I'd contact the farm owner for some tips on what to do and how to make the most of the experience. See the video above for an interview live from the orchard with Kim Harry!
Kim offers the following tips for blueberry picking:
- You'll see berries of a variety of shades. Choose the darkest, deepest blue ones.
- The ones that are ready will come off the bush easily. Leave the others to ripen.
- Pick one at a time.
- The biggest berries are the sweetest.
- For your comfort and protection, wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
- It's a good idea to wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, and bug spray. Their fields are chemical-free, and you may encounter some critters.
I'll add to that to wear an older pair of shoes that you don't mind getting a bit wet or dirty.
Minka Farm isn't just an orchard. It's a small family farm with a variety of animals to see. They also have a farm store stand where you can buy products they grow, including beef, pork, eggs, goat, fruit and vegetables depending on what's in season.
Visiting is a great experience for the whole family. Kids love blueberry picking, running up and down the aisles, and sampling as they go. After picking, they enjoy seeing the animals on the farm. There are cows, horses, goats, chickens, donkeys, dogs, cats, guineas, pigs and sheep.
Kim says that you're also welcome to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy after you're done picking. They have shaded picnic tables available.
I asked Kim what her favorite blueberry dish is. She said she loves them the most just eating them on their own. But her favorite thing to make is Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins. And she's sharing the recipe with us!
Minka Farm's Lemon-Blueberry Muffins Recipe (gluten-free):
2 cups gluten free flour mix (our flour mix contains cornstarch, tapioca, rice, garbanzo bean, fava bean, millet & guar gum, but yours will be dictated by your dietary needs)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup salted butter (add 1/2 tsp salt if using unsalted butter or non-dairy alternate)
1 1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 duck egg or 1 extra large chicken egg
1 tbsp. grated lemon rind
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Combine coconut milk, 1 tsp lemon juice, egg and rind; stir well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture; stir until well mixed. Gently fold in blueberries.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cup tins lined with paper cupcake liners. Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins spring back when lightly touched.
You can also find my blueberry muffin recipe here, which can be made regular or gluten free.
Now that I've picked blueberries, I can tell you for sure that freshness makes a huge difference! There's no comparison between these just-picked berries and what you find in the grocery store from who-knows-where, picked who-knows-when. It's well worth the effort to come out and get some farm fresh berries. They were sooo sweet and delicious. I also really appreciate the fact that Minka Farm's berries are chemical-free.
Kim says the season should run a few more weeks. For more information, click here.
For a comprehensive listing of farms and farmer's markets searchable by county, visit NC Farm Fresh.
Don't miss out this season. Go get some farm fresh blueberries while you can. Enjoy!
Michelle Rogers is an ABC11 Community Influencer and a Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in helping women over 40 accomplish their fitness and weight loss goals, and improve their health and quality of life. Visit her healthy living blog at www.michellerogers.fit and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.