The Great Blueberry Quest

Thursday, July 1, 2010
Here in northern Minnesota we often joke that the year is divided into three seasons: winter, mud season, and a week of summer. In truth, I’ve never found a corner of the earth so fundamentally tied to the seasons – Western Europe’s half-assed winters always left me feeling confused – and there are plenty in sub-seasons in this neck of the woods. In spring we have mud season, then the springtime of the first blossoms. While summer may be a season almost entirely devoted to blueberries, it too has its own set of sub-seasons: scouting for blueberries, picking blueberries, and eating blueberries.

After the Ham Lake Fire burned through the area in 2007, blueberry picking has been phenomenal. Everyone has their own “secret” picking spot. Of course, some “secret” spots are more popular than others. We’re lucky enough to have a small blueberry patch right behind the cabin, but whenever we’re out in the woods, we’re looking for an even better berry patch that’s truly secret.

We look for a place where the soil’s sandy, where the sunlight’s a bit filtered to allow berries plenty of sunshine and just enough shade to grow nice and plump. People are often dismayed when they return to a patch they remember doing well a few years back and finding slim pickings, to say the least. Blueberry patches are often found where jack pines thrive and as a result the patches can cycle out fairly quickly when the baby jack pines grow taller and start to cast too much shade over the berry bushes. It always pay to keep your eyes peeled for a new patch, because there's no guarantee that the same spot that offered great picking this year will be as marvelous in the years to come. Last fall when we were out grouse hunting, Andy and I spotted a spot that we thought might offer plenty of good pickin’s this summer, so yesterday we hopped in the truck to go check it out.

We turn off the main road onto an old, bumpy, skinny, rocky, logging road. After stopping once to push aside some blown down sticks, we parked in front of a fallen tree.

After scrambling through the tree, we forded the river.

We walked a little more. And were warmly rewarded with a scene of blueberry fields forever.

Last night in the patch behind the house, I picked about a cup of berries. But the majority of berries, especially at the patch we scouted yesterday, won’t be ready for a couple weeks yet. I’m excited!

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