As summer approaches and school children begin to fill with anticipation of the long lazy days ahead, my daughter and I begin to count the days until our annual pilgrimage to the blueberry farm. What began as a whim several years back has turned into an annual tradition of mothers and daughters spending the day together, trekking to the blueberry farm, dreaming of the blueberry filled dishes that will enhance our summer meals.
Our farm of choice is Emery’s Organic Blueberry Farm, 346 Long Swamp Road in New Egypt, New Jersey. The fifty year old farm is 60 acres, 20 of which are filled with a delectable assortment of organic blueberry fields. Blueberry season is from mid -June through July. Blueberries are sold at the farm stand in pints and flats but we have found that the best and most satisfying way to obtain the finest berries is by picking them ourselves. The farm updates picking conditions daily with a recording on their phone. Visitors are encouraged to check in at 609-758-8514 before heading out. The u-pick fields will not open if there is not enough ripe fruit to harvest. Since conditions change daily, the phone call is worth the effort.
This year we planned our adventure for the first Friday after school closed. Early on that hazy morning we found ourselves bubbling with excitement as we packed into the car, boasting amicably about who would find the fattest, juiciest berry this year. The ride to the farm reminds the traveler why New Jersey is called the “Garden State.” The winding roads are dotted with farms and silos and many a barnyard animal. Signs abound for “you pick vegetable farms”, livestock for sale and even a couple of New Jersey wineries. Upon arrival we moms encourage our all-knowing teenage daughters to reapply sunscreen and visit the surprisingly clean port-a-johns on the property. On this particular day we were surprised to see many more families than usual at the farm, seemingly planning to do the same thing we were. Our faces revealed that we all had the same worry, how would this impact the usual Zen experience we have in the fields? We wondered if there would be enough berries for all of us. We promptly selected our picking vessels at the weigh station and headed out to the fields.
This year we were directed to the closest field, a very short walk from the farm store and different from the fields we have taken a wagon ride to in the past.
Happily our fears of crowds were soon put to rest. As we meandered in the fields we were pleased to realize that despite the number of cars, 20 acres is HUGE and there were plenty of blueberry bushes and space for each of us to pick undisturbed.
These are not the berries you find in your local chain food store! One of the girls remarked that they were experiencing Heaven on Earth as they picked berries the size of grapes with a sweetness reserved only for the Gods. Our buckets filled quickly this year. The strange weather of spring/early summer 2017 created perfect growing conditions for blueberries. Each bush was filled with an abundance of huge and gorgeous berries. We began to feel gluttonous as we filled our buckets to the brim reminding each other of the numerous health benefits of these beautiful blue berries!
When our buckets could hold no more, we brought them to the weigh station to find how many pounds we had picked. We opted to pay a dollar for a flat box to transport our berries while our friends had wisely chosen to bring a large plastic container with a lid to carry theirs home. We were pleased to see that this year we had picked slightly over 9lbs of berries and were given a ticket to take into the farm store where we could pay for our fruit.
The farm store is a delight for the senses. It is filled with preserves and pies and treats that will tempt even the most amazing will power! The pies themselves are known throughout the state as some of the best in the land! We found ourselves tempted by the varieties of syrup knowing that blueberry pancakes would be on the menu all week. The girls struggled to choose between apple cider and blueberry donuts and we realized that we would live with regret it if we did not try at least one of the famous fruit pies. After paying for our selections and the fruit we had harvested, we returned to the weigh station to collect our loot. As we packed up our car we smiled at the farm animals being visited by toddlers and the young at heart. We talked about visiting again in the fall to pick pumpkins as we noted the corn maze beginning to grow.
On our journey home the girls reminded us of the nifty looking ice cream stand we had passed on the way in to the farm. Since it is summer and we were on an adventure, we agreed to stop and sit for a spell as the girls indulged in the homemade frozen treats. This nostalgic looking building reminded us of the old fashioned car hops with its red and white checkerboard décor. The flavors are fun and interesting and the taste does not disappoint. We were pleased to note that not only did they offer human treats but one could also purchase a special canine friendly bowl of ice cream for a furry family friend!
As we began our journey back home we noted that the chatter seemed less than the on the ride to the farm. The young ladies rested after their time in the fields and the moms exchanged new and interesting uses for these freshly picked treats. This great summer tradition seemed the absolutely perfect way to kick off our season of fun! We cannot wait to see what other adventures the summer brings!