The EATEN PATH: Berry bliss in Chilliwack
Bright blue, marble-sized, oblong gems of fruit weigh down the branches in such numbers at Berry Bounty Farms a non-farmer wonders if the branches will break.
The large, extended Maljaars family are in the field daily, handpicking this, the first harvest ever of these four-year-old bushes.
It’s blueberry season in the Fraser Valley and even for someone new to the business, someone whose bushes have never been picked before, patriarch Dave Maljaars knows this year is a good one.
“By all accounts it looks like a good year,” he says.
And the B.C. Columbia Blueberry Council agrees.
“This year’s crop is exceptional in both the quality of the fruit we’re seeing, and the size of the harvest,” said Debbie Etsell, executive director of the Council. “Growing conditions were close to perfect this year, with such a sunny spring, and no extreme weather. That meant that a lot of fruit was pollinated.”
This year’s harvest among the 800 growers in the province is expected at 68 million kilograms, exceeding even last year’s incredible 55 million kilograms, which made the province the largest highbush blueberry growing region in the world, with Canada ranked third as a country.
The Maljaars operation, Berry Bounty Farms, is on Chilliwack Central Road where three generations pitch on the seven acres of ripening blueberries. They also have 10 acres of younger blueberries not ready for harvest, and eight acres of raspberries.
“We all work together at this,” Dave Maljaars says.
While this is the first year for the blueberry crop, they have had raspberries for a while, and all are for sale at their roadside stand along with homemade jam and juice.
This weekend, those keen on the popular summer fruit—referred to by the blueberry council as “nature’s candy”—can come out to the farm for a special day. Visitors can see the berry picker in action, pick a few berries after a wagon ride, take part in some fun activities, and have lunch with proceeds going to help orphans in Kenya through Hungry for Life.
Blueberries are hard to miss in Chilliwack right now, with fruit stands popping up in parking lots, on street corners and on rural roads. But for a list of places with farmgate sales and pick-your-own options in the Fraser Valley and beyond, visit www.bcblueberry.com.
One example of pick your own, is Prairie Fruit Farm (www.prairie-fruit-farm.com) at 8501 Upper Prairie Rd.
And don’t forget to hit Berry Bounty Farms this weekend at 48260 Chilliwack Central Rd. Visit www.berrybountyfarms.com or call 604-316-1350 for more information.
Providing a recipe to go with blueberries may seem unnecessary. What else do you need to do than shove ‘em in your mouth as a snack, or in a bowl for dessert? But here’s an interesting take on turkey burgers to bring blueberries into the main course.
Blueberry Turkey Burgers
Recipe courtesy BC Blueberry Council
Yields 4 burgers
1 lb lean ground turkey
3/4 B.C. blueberries, fresh or frozen, roughly chopped
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 large egg
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp dry
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dry
1 tsp garlic, finely minced or dry
1 tsp paprika, mild or hot
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp barbecue sauce
4 whole grain burger buns
Pre-heat a heavy bottom pan or barbecue to 350 F/175 C.
In a bowl, mix all the burger ingredients and form four, three-quarter-inch thick patties. Keep refrigerated until ready to cook.
Grease the grill with an oiled paper towel, or heat the oil in the pan.
Place patties on the pre-heated grill (or in pan), and sear on medium-high heat, cooking for approximately 5-7 minutes until browned. Flip over, reduce the heat to medium-low and finish cooking for another 5-7 minutes until internal temperature reaches 165 F/75 C.
Brush with barbecue sauce and serve on buns with condiments as desired.