If someone were to ask me what my favorite season of the year is, I may be tempted to reply with “blueberry season.” Not only is this a beautiful time of year weather wise (hello sun and beach days!), but it is also when my favorite fruit ripens and is ready to pick. With one of my favorite childhood books being Blueberries for Sal, and having fond memories of picking berries since being in preschool, mid-July brings nostalgic excitement and latticed pies served warm with a side of vanilla bean ice cream.
Chris and John Bozak extend this wonderful season at their farm Berry Best Farm located in Lebanon, Maine with their eleven varieties that provide berries now through August. While varieties range from Early Bird to Atlantic to Patriot, the best tasting berries are, as Chris puts it, “the ripe ones.” It is obvious Chris knows how sweet and addictive berries are because once I got my hand on a green carton of her blueberries I couldn’t stop from continuously eating the perfectly ripe berries. (Be warned, it is very difficult to have the berries last the ride or walk back home – trust me.)
You can get your berry fix at the Rochester Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays from 3:30-6:30 pm), and can also have the classic New England experience of picking your our berries at the farm, which is open from 8:00 am – 7:00 pm on Tuesdays, and 8:00 am – 5:00 pmWednesdays-Sundays. The 75 acre farm was originally owned by Chris’s parents, Herb and Natalie Colburn, who bought the farm in 1948, and is the farm that Chris grew up on. Now Chris’s grandkids help work on the farm, making the farm a four generations farm. This family history will be preserved since the farm is under the Three Rivers Land Trust, ensuring the land will not be developed since it is under an agriculture and forestry conservation easement.
Herb started out with chickens, but after meeting a man from New Jersey who was working on developing cultivated blueberry varieties and was living across the street for the summer, Herb was inspired to later grow cultivated blueberries. (The man from New Jersey had also taken cuttings from the native high bush blueberries on the Colburn’s farm as part of his research.) Some of the original bushes that Herb first planted are still producing berries and being picked today. For picking the best berries off the bushes, Chris let me on to the secret that the biggest berries are often also the ripest.
Natalie Colburn use to take some of these big ripe berries and make muffins for all the customers so that they would have a special treat. Once that became too labor intensive, she made mini muffins for the weekend customers. Chris continues this delicious and adorable tradition and makes eight-dozen mini muffins every weekend during blueberry season to offer to berry pickers. You can find this recipe for Grandma Colburn’s Famous Blueberry Muffins posted on Berry Best Farm’s website so you may enjoy them at home as well. Other recipes on the website include blueberry bars, a salad with blueberries and arugula, blueberry scones, and blueberry cake. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy blueberries (if I don’t eat all of them first) is to make a blueberry sauce for pancakes, and to put them on vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of maple syrup.
Blueberries aren’t the only scrumptiousness Berry Best Farm has to offer. Along with blueberries there is also raspberry picking this year (there are also usually peaches to pick at the farm but due to recent weather conditions, there are no peaches this year). Items such as honey, jams, and selected baked goods may also be found at the farmers’ market. The jams are made with fruit harvested from the farm with flavors like blueberry, peach raspberry, and more.
This Sunday is a perfect day to visit Berry Best, who is participating in the Maine Open Farm Day. Events at the farm will include hayrides, making butter, giant bubbles, and other kids’ activities! I know I’ll be visiting Berry Best as soon as possible – meanwhile I am popping these juicy berries in my mouth that I was able to snatch up at the farmers’ market.