Quick Bites: Blueberry Season
BY MORGAN BURNETT
Florida may claim the title of the country’s top producer of oranges, but the Sunshine State’s blueberries dominate the fruit lineup every spring. Local farms across central and south Florida perk up in April as acres of lush bushes boast new, blue life.
Thanks to mild temperatures during the fall growing season, Florida farmers this year are expecting another successful crop of blueberries, now available for harvesting. While the larger commercial farms invite visitors for U-Pick once the busy season ebbs, dozens of family-owned blueberry farms offer U-Pick throughout the spring months as soon as the fruit ripens -- as a way to share the bounty.
So head to the patch! Picking blueberries with the family is a delicious way to welcome springtime. Don your sunscreen and closed-toe shoes, grab a bucket or basket and turn your kids loose on the land to harvest the juicy, blue jewels.
Many farms provide visitors with needed items for the earthy adventure: U-Pick containers, refreshments, even homemade recipe ideas for pancakes, muffins, jams and the like. Fresh blueberries can be refrigerated for up to two weeks, but you also may freeze them to extend their shelf life.
Remember, it is best to call a farm – or in some cases, check the website or Facebook page – before you head out, as days and times can vary depending on what is ripe and when. And some farms do not accept credit cards, so take cash with you.
Listed here is a sampling of blueberry farms in the Tampa Bay area. Most use either chemical-free growing methods or sustainable farming practices.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also lists U-Pick farms in the Sunshine State at freshfromflorida.com.
Brooksville Ridge Blueberries
1172 Hancock Lake Road, Brooksville
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; check website or sign up for email updates
• Open Mother’s Day weekend.
● $3 per pound; farm provides picking buckets and bags, but bring containers and coolers for the trip home.
Big Bear Farms
7606 Kinard Road, Plant City
Hours: Check the website, call or sign up for email updates
• You can pick yourself, or they’ll pick the berries for you (a great supplement if you’re picking with little ones)
Blueberry Cottage Farms
827 Old Welcome Road, Lithia
Hours: Tuesdays 4 to 6 p.m., Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Offers a discount for cash purchases
Blues Blueberry Farm
1201 Holloway Road, Plant City
Hours: Check their Facebook page at facebook.com/bluesberryfarmllc
● Focuses on sustainable farming practices such as partnering with Southwest Florida Water Management District to reduce water and electricity consumption
● Free popsicles for kids who visit
11501 Winn Road, Riverview
Hours: Call or check their Facebook page at facebook.com/bobsberriesfl
● Other fruits available (star fruit, bananas, peaches), plus raw honey and fresh herbs
Proctor Family Blueberry Farm
7105 Kinard Road, Plant City
Hours: Call or check website for schedule
Bob’s Blueberry Farm and Nursery
11229 Pincus Drive, Hudson (also at New York Avenue at Utica Drive)
Website: Search Bob’s Blueberry Farm & U-Pick on Facebook
Hours: Open daily at 8 a.m.; call before you go
13725 Family Trail, Hudson
Hours: Call or check website for schedule.
• U-Pick $4 per pound; take-home bags provided
Owen’s Blueberry Farm
12839 Kitten Trail, Hudson
Hours: Call for days and hours open
Starkey Blueberry Farms
10730 Lake Blanche Drive, Trinity, FL 34655
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Check website or Facebook page at facebook.com/starkeyblueberryfarm for updates
• $5 U-Pick; $7 and they’ll pick for you
Kirkland Blueberry Farm
2632 Old Medulla Road, Lakeland
Hours: Call or check website.
• The Kirkland farm was established in 1876 and generations of the family have kept the farm thriving as a Medulla community landmark
Sources: Florida Blueberry Growers Association; individual farms