There were summers in which the heat rose off those endless miles of two-lane blacktop roads and shimmered in drowsy waves the air, giving them the quality of a mirage, of possibilities. Sometimes you might see a few humpbacked cars pulled over on a rural road where you might also see whole families battling briars to pick berries, filling every container they could find or jury-rig from their clothing. Boys cupped the front tails of their shirts, men used their hats, and women used everything from dishtowels to beach buckets scavenged from the trunks. Scrambling around for a container of some sort, you pulled over to join them enthusiastically.
We can thank the Wampanoag Indians not only for teaching earliest settlers how to grow corn, but how to collect wild blueberries, how to dry and store them for winter use and to combine them with dried venison for leaner times. Blueberries are loved as much by deer, bears and ducks as by humans. But the most pernicious of our blueberry competitors are birds.
A contest used to take place every year on a beautiful island where a beach house sat surrounded by blueberry bushes. Inhabitants of this house would wait, charting the ripening process each morning, checking to see just to what degree those green berries were becoming blue and precisely how blue. Cocky Bluejays, perched on deck railings, twisted their heads from side to side performing the same task. Those cunning, bossy birds almost always got there first in the pre-dawn hours of the peak ripening day. Must have been the only time in their lives they were quiet. Fortunately, those bushes were prolific.
Native to North America, the sweet blueberry, for inexplicable reasons, only made it east to Europe in the 1930s. Research indicates that there is a sub-variety from the Carolinas with the fanciful name of Rabbiteye Blueberries. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if there really were blue-eyed rabbits?
The tasty blueberry is a bit of a miracle fruit. It is low in calories and carbohydrates; contains the highest concentration of antioxidants; is thought to help lower blood pressure and reduce the DNA damage of aging. Not bad for such a tiny fruit. Blueberry recipes on the website include: Blueberry Coconut Lassi, Blackberry-Blueberry Pie, and Blueberry Slushie. Today we’re offering Blueberry Lemon Icebox Cake, which isn’t a cake but a delicious frozen treat.