When I was growing up in Upper Michigan, summertime fun revolved around three things: swimming in the nearby lake, camping with family and neighbors, and picking wild blueberries. My friends and I would walk all throughout the woods and collect gallon-sized buckets full of ripe, juicy blueberries to bring home where they were quickly used in muffins or pancakes or left out to snack on. There never seemed to be enough.
After moving to suburban Washington, D.C., I learned the hard way that blueberries don’t just grow like that everywhere. I didn’t go berry picking for over five years. That’s when, after having moved in with my grandparents in the rural Suwanee Valley of Florida, my grandfather woke me up at 4:30 in the morning and suggested we head over to the nearest U-Pick blueberry farm.
In his thick Wisconsin-Polish accent, he said, “We gotta get to work before it gets too hot. Let’s go!” And go, we did.
June in Florida is unbearable to those not yet acclimated to our soupy humidity and boiling sun. At the time, I was one of those people. I’d only been in Florida for a few weeks and by 6:30 that morning, I was begging Grandpa to take me home. Bug-bitten and sweating, I wanted to take a shower and sit in the shade of their porch with a glass of iced tea.
Screw the blueberries. This ain’t like Michigan, folks. It’s hot!
The Florida blueberry season is only good for a few weeks beginning in late May and running through mid- to late-June, if you’re lucky. The best times to visit a U-Pick farm is before the sun rises and the bugs wake up. And that’s how I became accustomed to store-bought berries.
Saturday, I made a special trip to the Beaches Green Market specifically to get my hands on some organic farm-raised blueberries. The freak mild weather over the winter pushed up blueberry season by 4-6 weeks, so early birds (like me) can get in line first! $4 a pint – expensive, but worth it – and I bought two pints, hoping to get in on some muffins, pancakes, and snackin’ action over the next few days. I prepared myself to get up early the following morning and make Elle and her friend some blueberry pancakes from scratch with a blueberry syrup to top them off.
WHAT A BIG FAIL. Would you believe that these blueberries were too big?
The recipe I used called for ¾ cup of blueberries to be folded into the batter. Obviously, nobody in their right mind takes into consideration that the berries might just be the size of grapes. I certainly didn’t, but I’d like to use the excuse that I haven’t seen a decent sized blueberry in nearly two decades. My blueberry circumference perception is obviously warped.
The first two pancakes couldn’t cook all the way through because, well, they were hardly touching the pan – thanks to the ginormous blueberries holding up the batter like a house on stilts, scorching the blueberries in the process. Then I panicked and started cutting the batter-covered berries in the mixing bowl in half, thinking my logic would solve this problem. No. These berries were still too big. The only way to salvage this would be to remove all the berries from the batter and chop them individually.
TOO MUCH WORK – here kids, eat some Frosted Flakes. Mommy screwed up.
I managed to save a few whole berries from the batter so I rinsed them and put them back in their package. Then I made myself a more edible, yet less exciting, breakfast of sliced bananas and…giant blueberries.