Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

It’s a berry bonanza

Forget about Facebook— head to the woods. You’ll be glad you did

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 7/11/18

Verdant.

I’ve always liked that word and it seems to well describe our northern forest this year. After two years with abundant summer rains, everything growing in the woods appears especially …

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It’s a berry bonanza

Forget about Facebook— head to the woods. You’ll be glad you did

Posted

Verdant.

I’ve always liked that word and it seems to well describe our northern forest this year. After two years with abundant summer rains, everything growing in the woods appears especially lush and productive.

It’s a banner year for just about every tree, shrub, or wildflower, from the red maples, which clogged our gutters with an awe-inspiring volume of seeds, to the berry crops now quickly ripening across the area. It’s the berries that have attracted my attention in the past week or so, as the upland blueberries are now close to peak. Blueberry bushes are ubiquitous in the North Country, but most go years without producing any viable quantity of berries. This year is the exception. Places where I’ve never stopped to pick before are just draped with plump berries right now. At the rate things are going, my wife Jodi and I may never even get to our secret spot, since we’re filling the freezer just picking around the house.

Besides, we’re going to need to make room for the juneberries, which are also growing in profusion. For those who don’t like bending and squatting over blueberry bushes, consider picking juneberries, instead, this year.

Here’s a tip… get an ice cream bucket and attach a strap around it that goes behind your neck so the bucket hangs in front of you at belly-level. Then you can stand and pick with both hands.

Juneberries make a nice complement to blueberries for pies and fruit crisps. By themselves, blueberries can be pretty runny when baked, but adding a cup of juneberries to the mix helps to stiffen the final product a bit. Juneberries also have a slightly different taste that a lot of folks find appealing.

In most years, the juneberries are tough to come by since the birds and chipmunks usually get them before the rest of us. But with so many things growing in abundance, the chipmunks will probably be too fat to climb a juneberry bush. In any case, they won’t be able to get all of them this year.

The wild raspberries are also looking exceptional and they’ll be further ripening as we go through the month.

I know that the hardcore berry pickers don’t need me to tell them that it’s a bonanza out there. But for those occasional pickers who only like to pick when the picking’s good, this would be a year to get geared up, slather on the bug dope, and stock up for the winter. There’s nothing like a wild blueberry pie in January, after all. This year, you have no excuse for sitting on the couch. The berries aren’t going to get much better.

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