On a recent trip to Vermont Science Is My Specialty went blueberry picking in the Merck Forest and Farmland Center (www.merckforest.org) in Rupert, Vermont. The Merck Forest and Farmland Center is a non-profit environmental organization located in the Taconic Mountains in southwestern Vermont. Admission is free, and the Center is open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk. They offer programs and demonstrations about sustainable agriculture, recreation, habitat preservation, maple sugaring, timber harvests, water control and wildlife management. They also have farm activities including organic gardening, rotational grazing, cover grazing and lucky for me, visitors can pick their own blueberries. I love to pick my own blueberries and that is exactly what I did today!
At first we were afraid that the bushes were picked clean. It was a Monday and the berries are picked by staff to sell at the farmers’ market in town on Sunday morning. But as we walked through the bushes, we decided to use a strategy. We made our way to the back rows, thinking the pickers may not wander down that far. Our strategy worked. We were able to pick two quarts of blueberries.
Blueberries have always been abundant in North America, making them a staple of the diet of Native Americans. They are high in antioxidants, and lots of claims are made about the health benefits of blueberries. They are one of the only natural food that are blue.
Blueberry bushes love acidic soils whose pH is about 4 to 4.5. They like plenty of rain and full sunlight. Most blueberry bushes produce from one to nine pounds of berries per year, but they do not start producing fruit until their third year, and often do not reach full production until the berries are six years old.
I am armed and ready to bring my blueberries (cost: $2.38 for my quart) back to the city and make blueberry muffins and enjoy with vanilla ice cream.
Thank you Merck Forest and Farm Center.