Picking berries in the summertime has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.
If it wasn't literally grabbing goiabas and pitangas from our backyard trees during our Brazilian summers December through February, it was going to local USA pick-your-own fields.
There used to be a number of them in this area: St. James for strawberries; Richland for blackberries and, this year, Rolla for blueberries.
Our Illinois neighbor, Mrs. Futrell, called them "huckleberries" and made the most wonderful pies and muffins with them. It wasn't until I moved to Missouri that I discovered huckleberries and blueberries were very similar and were used interchangeably.
According to Rebecca Richards and Susan Alexander, who researched the social history of huckleberries in the Pacific Northwest, where they are now grown commercially, there are 35 species of Vaccinium native to North America including huckleberries, cranberries and blueberries.
Because of their complex taxonomy, it's challenging to tell some of them apart. Huckleberries tend to be smaller, darker and sweeter, and grow in the wild.
When Europeans arrived on the continent in the 1600s, Native Americans were already enjoying blueberries year-round. They dried blueberries in the sun and added them whole to soups, stews and meat, or crushed them into a powder rubbed into meat as a preservative.
According to legend, Native Americans gave blueberries to the first European settlers to help them make it through their first winter.
Native Americans also used blueberries, and their leaves and roots, for medicinal purposes.
They developed one of the first blueberry baked goods, a simple pudding made with blueberries, cracked corn and water. Early settlers added milk, butter and sugar, and many historians believe it was part of the first Thanksgiving feast.
To successfully grow blueberries, you need to have at least two different varieties in very acid, porous soil.
According to Paula Marti, Brandywine Farms, they have two different "high bush" blueberry varieties among their 2,500 blueberry bushes at the pick-your-own farm off Highway 63 South. Paula said the picking season is short, lasting from three to five weeks, depending on weather.
My niece and I picked Brandywine Farms blueberries July 6 for our own favorite summer breakfast meal; homemade pancakes. She prefers chocolate chips in hers so I volunteered to taste the ones with blueberries.
Here's our recipe:
Mix in a plastic bag or storage container:
1.5 cups flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Store until ready to use. When you are ready, add:
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Mix. Pour into heated griddle or frying pan in pancake sizes of your choice. Drop blueberries, or chocolate chips, on pancakes just as you are getting ready to turn them. You can also make and freeze pancakes, and blueberries, individually on a cookie sheet for later use.
Page 2 of 2 - Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News - St. James Leader Journal - Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.