Relishing seasonality at Hobbit Hill Farm
Those who frequent farmer's markets, join CSA's, or otherwise support small local farms know the joy of the seasons. Not just the well-known “official” divisions of the year (spring, summer, etc,) but also the more subtle periods that present regularly, year after year, like a gift.
Late April is not just Spring, it is pea season, when crisp sweet peas and spicy wet radishes, baby lettuce mixes and peppery arugula make a showy appearance at the market after a winter bare of fresh harvests. The hot sticky days of August are not simply the dog days of summer, they are tomato season, and eaters everywhere marvel at how they ever survived without fresh bruschetta; a BLT seems the most perfect and elegant of foods. And those waning days of September are more than back-to-school, they are the season for sweet corn and genuine pumpkin spice.
If you know, you know!
In mid-June, folks throughout the mid-Atlantic hold their collective breath and watch for signs from farmers, who are carefully studying the weather and inspecting their perennial bushes. The ripening comes - sometimes shyly while folks wait impatiently, sometimes swiftly and taking families unaware - and it never lasts more than a few weeks, but what joyful weeks they are! It is blueberry season, when u-pick patches open and the sweet-tart taste of a summer superfood takes over the palette.
In Mount Crawford, Virginia, Haley Coloso watches over Hobbit Hill Farm, where the same blueberry bushes her father planted over three decades ago grow heavy with berries, first green, then soft blushing pink, and finally deep blue, ready for harvest. “Feel free to eat as you pick” she says with a big smile as folks arrive and venture into the patch rows armed with buckets. She points out the different varieties “The big ones are Blue Jays,” she explains, palming a berry the size of a quarter. “They’re a little more tart than the Patriots.” She gestures to the bushes a little further on before popping the large juicy blueberry into her mouth.
A berry straight from the bush at this USDA Certified Organic farm is a singular sort of joy, and you can see it replicated on the faces of five-year-olds and eighty-year-olds alike as they wander through the sunshine from bush to bush. Some u-pickers grab great handfuls, pulling at clusters so the ripe berries come away; some inspect each individual berry closely, inspecting it for ripeness and roundness before pinching it carefully from its stem. Whatever the harvest method, the berries go into a bucket and when one has picked their fill they are weighed and bagged for the journey home, to be made into pies and muffins, baked into pancakes, and blended into smoothies. And (let’s be real) a great number of them are eaten on the drive home, fortifying the u-pick adventurers with antioxidants, vitamin c, and potassium. And something else… Sunshine? Summer? Nostalgia?
Watching the young people running through the grass, gleeful at their harvest and their lips stained purple, it is clear that they are creating a memory, a sense-memory. This time of year - this particular warmth and the specific color of the June sunlight - will forever be associated with the taste of blueberries in their minds and in their hearts. Every year - even decades from now - they will recognize a certain quality in the June air and they will remember - hey, it’s blueberry season.