Farm Focus: Joe's Blues Blueberries
There's nothing like February in Chicago to make you dream about picking blueberries in the heat of July. The Sustainable Queers have just about run out of our personal supply of July blueberries, but we want to let you in on our secret blueberry patch. It's not really a secret, but Joe's Blues is an awesome farm to support.
Now, without getting into a long discussion about the differences between fresh and frozen, sustainable and conventional, local and non-local produce, I'll just say that the odds for your health and pocket book run in favor of trucking yourself to Michigan every summer and bringing back x number of pounds of blueberries to get you through the winter. Plus, it's a lot of fun and you can stop at the dunes on the way!
Some of you may be wondering why we don't just support Illinois or Wisconsin blueberry growers, because wouldn't they be a whole lot closer? Isn't that more local? I would fully support buying IL or WI blueberries, if our soil could support those poor plants, but we have a pH issue on this side of lake. The vast majority of our bedrock is limestone and it is constantly raising the pH of our soil. Blueberries (and roses) crave acidic soil. It's not sustainable to grow tons of blueberries in this region. So, to Michigan we go.
What makes Joe's Blues special? Why not just U-Pick at the first farm you come to? Because, believe me, that part of Michigan is chock full of fruit farms. While Joe's Blues is not organic certified (they are such a small operation it's likely not cost effective to pursue organic certification), they do have a sustainable guarantee and are an environmentally assured farm through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program. They do not use pesticides or chemicals. At all. So sometimes, their fruit may have a blemish here or there. But that's part of growing food. But their fruit is delicious and we've enjoyed it several years in a row now. (Truth be told, we're more interested in sustainability than in USDA "organic" certification.)
Maybe the fruit sounds good to you, but driving to the fruit belt of Michigan sounds exhausting. That's cool. You can pick up blueberries from Joe's Blues in Chicago year round. Year round? Oh, good. So, we can make up for the fact that we are about to run out. Granted, the per pound cost is lower if you pick your own and you get the benefit of getting out of the city for a day. You also can get a little farmer's tan and pick up some local honey while you are out there. But it's up to you.
Joe's has made their blueberries available in a variety of ways. During the growing season, you can rent a bush, sign up for a CSA, get home delivery, or do the aforementioned U-Pick. In the winter you can find their frozen blueberries at a handful of stores and restaurants in the Chicago region and southwest Michigan. Check out their website for detailed information!
Now, most people like blueberries fresh. I eat them enthusiastically by the handful. Once we freeze them, Kristl will eat them until her teeth turn blue, but I get a little sad. However, Kristl has found a way to mitigate my sadness! May I introduce Kristl's Blueberry Sorbet. Kristl adds lime and ginger for flavor, but the only sweetness comes from the blueberries. It is so soothing, refreshing, wonderful, etc. We both love it. This is an SQ original, you can thank Kristl when you are finishing your evening with a drink and some tart and sweet Blueberry Sorbet.
4 cups frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup water
4 Tbsp lime juice
Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until you get a smooth consistency. It'll be a little looser than a traditional sorbet. Put the mixture into a freezer safe container and freeze for an hour or two to let it set up. You may have to let it soften a bit before eating. Enjoy! Note: You can probably make this in a high powered blender, but we haven't yet tried it in our Blendtec, so I don't have specifics for you.