Mercury (Hobart) : 2019-01-15
TASTE : 17 : 17
17 TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2019 JANUARY 15 2019 instead of the extra packing expense of putting everything into 125g plastic punnets.
On a Sunday Jilly starts packing her vehicle at 5.30am for a 6.30am departure for Hobart’s Farm Gate Market.
“It’s a lovely, lovely market to sell at,” she says. “Customers are really reliable and there’s a fantastic stallholder community.” She also has regular lunchtime sales at two big Hobart employers.
Whether or not you do your own picking, shopping for blueberries at the farm means you can buy up big. (It is not okay to distract the farmer for 20 minutes with questions and then to buy one 125g punnet with a $100 note.)
In Matthew Evans has a recipe for blueberry, lemon and nutmeg syrup that makes up 1.5 litres. As he says: “You’d never make this if you had to pay big bucks for a tiny punnet of blueberries at the greengrocer.” Terrific though if you have stocked up on seconds.
You might also get a chance to ask for a particular variety – Blue Rose are my choice for freezing they have a tang the more modern blueberries lack.
Blue are the only berries that have the skin resistance to pop when you bite on them. Their colour is also an attractive contrast to strawberries and raspberries.
What they don’t have is the tartness of a blackcurrant or jostaberry to make a good jam on their own – nor do they have the pectin. Fortunately their flavours marries well with lemon and orange. And when you do use them in winter, using them frozen in baking means less bleeding of colour.
For something besides muffins, look up equally simple blueberry buckle or blueberry boy bait – invented by a Chicago teenager in the 1950s. She won second prize for it in a baking competition but it’s effectiveness in attracting a boyfriend is not recorded. ELAINE REEVES L ONG-TIME readers of this column may remember I once was associated with a blueberry farm, a small concern that welcomed people to pick their own.
Blueberries are the ideal pick-your-own (PYO) fruit; they are not low on the ground like strawberries nor prickly like raspberries.
They don’t require you to climb a ladder and you don’t have to consume them or turn them into jam as soon as you get them home.
Blueberries are great keepers. They keep in the fridge far longer than raspberries or strawberries and can be frozen without any processing and emerge free-flowing.
Our biggest PYO group came from the Polish Club. Retired people hired a coach load and picked for several households. They would leave with the luggage hold of the coach filled with enough blueberries to fill pierogi, make soup, and flavour vodka until the next season.
We would put rows aside for them, but the Poles invariably strayed when they spotted a good-looking bunch in a forbidden row.
It is difficult to manage both PYO visitors and paid pickers. Those picking purely for themselves do not pick a bush “clean”, that is they go along the outside of the bushes picking the most eye-catching and leaving ripe berries further in.
No one being paid by the kilo for picking wants to come along after a PYO group – it’s slow picking.
At Twelve Trees Farm at Not Just Jam, Find your fill of blueberries still Picture: ELAINE REEVES and the swimming hole in the Russell River.
Something From the Ground at Huonville also welcomes PYO into the blueberry patch.
Picking has to stop sometimes to let ripening catch up, so it is best to look at a farm’s Facebook page before setting out. Growers employing 60 pickers and grading machines that will measure 10 different criteria are not open to a PYO trade; and no blueberry farmer relies only on PYO custom.
After years of sending fruit to the mainland, Jilly sells only in Tasmania now, and directly to the public. She can use cardboard punnets for 500g Petcheys Bay just outside Cygnet, Jilly Middleton does not insist paid pickers clean up the bushes and has PYO people go along the workers.
It’s a different strategy at Eatem Organic Farm at Lonnavale beyond Judbury in the Huon Valley.
Prue and Pete de Vries have two separate patches – one for commercial supplies to Harvest Feast at Salamanca, Hill Street and Unpacked at Kingston, and a smaller one for amateur pickers.
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