We're coming into summer, and for the North Texas area that means blueberry season! On Saturday afternoon, my mom made the (super) last minute call to hop in the car and head out to do some East Texas blueberry picking at Blueberry Hill Farms. I will admit that although I love planning ahead, this spur of the moment outing was awesome -- win for Gina! It was so nice to get out the city and breathe some fresh, farm air; there's something about the country that just puts a smile on your face!
Blueberries are superfoods
It's easy to tell which ones are ready to pick. Their deep blue color and juiciness just calls you!
Blueberries are known to be one of the healthiest foods you can eat; so when they're picked straight off the bush and eaten just a few feet from where they grew, I can't imagine it gets much better than that! There are tons of articles out there reporting on studies that have shown that blueberries help "protect against heart disease and cancer, and can also help maintain bone strength, mental health, and healthful blood pressure." Apparently, just one cup of blueberries provides you with 24% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C!
Why not be proactive with our diets instead of reactive with medicine (especially when "proactive" food is as sweet and delicious as blueberries are)? The best part - no side effects other than a feel good pep in your step! According to a WebMD article, here's the list of top superfoods you should try to incorporate into your diet as much as possible:
Tea (green or black)
Yogurt (read our blog post on how to make your own sugar free yogurt at home)
Superfood with the added bonus of being local
Blueberries are already amazing for you, and getting these from a local farm was the cherry (or blueberry) on top of an already superfood! It took us a little over an hour to get to Blueberry Hill Farms, and we had fun chatting and catching up along the way. When we got there we unfortunately found out that Whiskey (our dog) wasn't allowed in the fields... oops. Although Whiskey wasn't too impressed by our lack of planning on that front, we were able to leave him in a shady spot under a tree and all was okay. The show continued on - we picked up our little baskets and off to picking we went!
The farm staff told us which rows were ready for picking, so it wasn't as daunting a task as it may seem; they were clearly pros at organizing inexperienced blueberry pickers toward maximum success and berry yield. Once we got out there, it was very easy to see which berries were ready to be picked. We focused in on the deep blue and juicy ones and definitely weren't disappointed. There were a few underripe ones that made it into the bunch and were little tart surprises later on, but it was all part of the fun.
Going to pick blueberries was a great weekend activity and a way to get out and about and stay active, but our ulterior motive of supporting local farmers and getting our hands on local produce also played a huge role. Farming is such hard work especially when you don't cut corners and do it in an environmentally responsible manner, and it's important to support the people in your area that are doing things right (by us, by the environment, and by the food we eat). However, there are so many other reasons why sourcing your food locally is the smart way to go.
So much more flavor. When we say our blueberries were just as sweet as pie, we're not joking. Food that is grown locally and in a responsible way is packed full of flavor. Warning - strong feelings of anger and betrayal might arise when you realize how dull the food you've been getting from the grocery store is in comparison!
Nutritional content is at its peak. As a general rule of thumb, the longer produce sits around after being picked the more its nutritional value decreases. When you buy produce at a grocery store (especially if its not in season), that food has travelled long distances to just get to the shelf and has most likely lost some of its nutritional content along the way.
Smaller carbon footprint. If you're not very familiar with the term "carbon footprint," at a high level it's defined as the total carbon emissions emitted (either directly or indirectly) by a product. In the case of produce, farming practices can have a huge impact on carbon footprint, but getting that food to you is a big piece of the puzzle as well. Farming practices being equal, food grown locally has to travel much shorter distances and therefore has a much smaller carbon footprint (and much smaller contribution to global warming and climate change) than food that's being shipped to you from countries around the world.
Transparency in food supply. When you buy fruits and veggies at the grocery store, you have no idea how they've been washed, what they were packed in, or what they've been treated with. When you're buying produce directly from the farmer, you can not only talk to them about their farming practices and get all the deets, but the process is so much more transparent simply by eliminating all those extra steps between farm and table.
Last but not least, support your local economy. As we said before, farming is hard work! Local farmers do so much to support your area's food network and they also typically live in rural areas where local business are prominent. Support them and support local!
A scrumptious treat to end the day
Before heading back to Big D, we indulged in a few scrumptious treats that were made by Blueberry Hill Farms staff and sold at their on-site shop. It was a delicious way to end our fun outing!