I have a thing for blueberries. I love the piney rocky outcrops they grow on. I love the plink-plank-plonk as the first berries hit the bottom of the berry cup. I love pulling out a freezer bag of berries in mid-winter for a batch of pancakes, and smelling that rich berry flavor even in the deep-freeze.
I'm not the only one on the North Shore who likes blueberries. This weekend, I joined the crowds at "Blackbirds and Blueberries" outside Cloquet. The crowds were big, the berries were huge, and a good time was had by all. This farm used to be known as "Blueberry Bush's," but the previous owner sold the farm and, from what I understand, took off in a sailboat. How could he leave a bounty like this?
Instead of "plink-plank-plunk" of berries hitting a single bucket, the sound was spread all around, like the first heavy raindrops of a thunderstorm hitting the walls of a tent. Pickers near and far were dropping the big ones into ice cream pails, cardboard boxes, and, my favorite, one-quart yogurt tubs.
The berries were obscenely large and plentiful. I picked 5 quarts of berries in under an hour. At the rate I was picking berries in the BWCA last week, it would have taken days.
Pluses of berry-farm berries:
- Size. They are huge.
- Irrigation. Even in a dry year, there are plenty berries at Blackbirds and Blueberries, since they water the bushes.
- Convenience. You go berry picking and bring home berries. You don't have to hunt back roads and hope for a good crop. You don't have to beat the bears to the crop.
- They don't taste as good. Really.
- They are huge. Part of the fun of wild berries is the slightly tough skin you chew up as you devour fresh berries.
- The karma is not quite right. I didn't earn those berries through searching, crouching over, or enduring torn skin from nearby bushes. I paid cash for them.
Blackbirds and Blueberries is at 3601 Crosby Road. It's nearest to Cloquet, so if you use Mapquest you'll get directions from Cloquet. After this weekend, they are "all picked out," but berries are still ripening and they should have picking later in August. Call 218-879-8193 for updating picking times. If you don't arrive at the recommended time of 8:00 AM, you'll park on the road and walk in. They charge $2.50 per pound.
Also, try Shary's Berries, which is up the Homestead Road from Highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors. Their season runs a little later. The phone number there is 218-834-5221.