The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 9, 2013

Picking season starts today at Blueberry Hill

FLAT TOP — Generations of so-called picky eaters — those preferring food straight from origin to table — will find their seasonal thrill beginning today at Blueberry Hill, as the Flat Top farm officially opens to its highly anticipated 2013 crop.

This is the farm’s 21st year of production and the format for picking remains the same year to year. Pickers browse 15 pristine acres of bushes with ample area for moving between rows burgeoning with large and colorful berries of the Blueray, Berkeley and Coville and other varieties of Northern Highbush. BYOB (bringing your own bucket) is an option, or loaner buckets of various sizes are also available at the farm’s entry.

Each container, not each patron, gets pre-weighed before the picking. Blueberry Hill charges a modest $1.99 per pound picked for the farm-to-table experience, or, as is the case with especially eager little harvesters, farm to mouth.

“While u-pickers at Blueberry Hill do save money over store prices, from our experience that’s not why they come,” claims the Blueberry Hill website. “… Most come for the freshest, sweetest fruit available.”

Lacy Treadway of Beaver and her family look forward to u-pick season. “We go several times each summer because the different bushes ripen at different times. Some of the bushes are sweeter. The Blueray bushes are so sweet they almost taste like the blueberry flavoring.”

Treadway admits that her husband, Thomas, holds the family record for two- to three-hour duration picks, gathering 30 pounds one year. In her kitchen, there can never be enough blueberries.

“I make a pie as soon as we get home. Then we dehydrate some for snacks. We freeze them and make blueberry jam out of them.”

Treadway says the best way to store blueberries is to lay them in unwashed batches on cookie sheets for an initial freezing, then store in freezer bags to keep them from sticking together.

Blueberry Hill doesn’t spray their bushes with pesticides, she points out.

“When you freeze them on the cookie sheets, it’s easy to reach in and get a handful without having to thaw the whole bag.”

Blueberry Hill is located on Egeria Road and is open to visitors 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Saturdays. The farm accepts cash and checks only.

Better hurry — those “blue pearls of summer” last only until the end of August.

For more information, visit http://blueberryhillwv.com

— E-mail: lshrewsberry@register-herald.com

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