During the summer in Texas, there is no shortage of activities design to keep us cool. Pools and Waterparks have become staples in nearly every town, water misters cool down restaurant and bar patios and children can be seen playing in sprinklers and swimming in pools everywhere you go. Most people, including myself, stay indoors, crank down the air conditioner and do what they can to remain somewhat comfortable during the heat of the day.
There is an annual summer ritual that I have adopted, however – one that leaves me sweaty and sticky and sandy. One that exhausts me for days after it’s done and yet one that offers rewards so great that I can’t imagine going without it. This ritual? My annual blueberry pick.
Each summer, beginning around June 1st, I begin to monitor the ripening of East Texas Blueberries. The weather patterns and sandy soil produce amazingly sweet berries, unlike anything I’ve ever tasted from the store. When they begin to peak, usually around the last week in June, I get in the car and drive for more than 2 hours to Edom, Texas and Blueberry Hill Farm. Most years, and this was no exception, I’m lucky enough to find another who’s willing to join me on my journey, another who appreciates the rustic and fulfilling process of picking one’s own fruit, another who understands the value of berries in her freezer. I’m grateful for these friends – without them the process would be a lonely one and much more difficult.
Walking into the main building of Blueberry Hill Farm is like stepping back in time. In fact, the entire town of Edom seems a little out of step with the rest of the face-paced world. Jams and jellies line the shelves, fresh blueberry pies are on display – just waiting to be taken home and blueberry lemonade sits in a pitcher offering refreshment to those just coming in from the fields. But these things do not distract me. There will be time to enjoy them later. For now, the sun is getting high and there is much work to be done. As my friend and I walk in, we’re immediately drawn to the corner where ½ peck baskets sit ready to be filled with the sweet berries. We grab a basket, take note of the hand-scribbled sign telling us which rows are currently ideal for harvesting, and head out into the vast fields – intent on filling our baskets to the brim.
Picking blueberries is not difficult. One can easily fall into a rhythm that can relax and calm the inner being. For hours, my friend and I walk up and down the rows, talking, picking, laughing and occasionally tasting. This year, we receive a break from the intense heat. A pleasant breeze cools us and it isn’t until we are nearing the end that the sun comes out – at which point we are thankful for the wide-brimmed hats that protect our faces. After several hours, our baskets are full, our fingers are blue and our feet are sandy. We have our blueberries. We’re done.
Once back inside the building, we’re met with ice-cold blueberry lemonade – a welcome sight. We have our harvest bagged and even buy some additional berries just to make sure we can get through until next summer. We then fall into the car – tired but elated at the experience.
Yes it’s tiring, yes it can be very hot and uncomfortable but it’s an experience. And shouldn’t we try to make experiences out of as many things as possible? Shouldn’t we live our lives actively experiencing everything we can? I can honestly say that when I taste these blueberries, they have no equal. Is the East Texas sand magic? Are they really that much better than those one can find in the produce aisles at your local store? Or is it the experience, the work, the story that makes eating them so much more rewarding? I may never know the answer and, frankly, I don’t care. I have a freezer full of amazing blueberries, I have a story to tell, I have a memory to draw upon. I’m happy.
East Texas Blueberry Muffins
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup milk (approximately)
- 2 cups + blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup butter, chilled and cubed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease 2 muffin pans well.
In a medium bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt and baking powder. In a 2-cup measure combine oil and eggs. Add enough milk to fill to 2-cup line.
Add liquid to dry mixture and stir to combine. Gently fold in blueberries.
Fill muffin cups.
Combine topping ingredients with fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of muffins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set.