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The Corrupted Palate: Wild Blueberries

By Kate Baker

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our wild blueberry bushes by the dock were bearing fruit early this season, like all growing things this year, I guess. I’ve always thought of them as August fruit, not July. But there were the dogs, meandering through, licking the bushes on either side – that was my first clue.

The dogs were just puppies the first time we noticed they were harvesting ripe blueberries. We were grabbing a few to make blueberry pancakes and I thought that the dogs were just keeping us company. I couldn’t figure out at first why they were licking the bushes. Then I realized it was the Advanced Doggie Harvesting System. Only the perfectly ripest berries dropped into their mouths as they ran their tongues over the branches. That’s also the year I started washing the blueberries with OxyClean.

Wild Blueberries

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I had no idea that blueberries grew anywhere around Lake George. I’ve always thought of them as an oceany- Mainey  canned fruit harvesting kind of thing. I was astounded the first time they were pointed out to me at the top of Tongue Mountain. (So sue me – I didn’t climb Tongue until I was 27 and trying to convince my new boyfriend that I really enjoyed hiking and camping. Hey – at the same time, he was trying to convince me that he enjoyed going to Mad Hattie’s and the Tail of the Tongue – I think he went once -  but our relationship survived those initial deceptions.)

It’s kind of fun, to eat something that we can gather from the land. Like a little summertime bonus. One of my husband’s fondest memories is of the day he picked a small bag of blueberries and brought them in to Iva Reed at the Country Diner. She had the kitchen make up an order of pancakes with them for his breakfast and he was thrilled.  He had brought enough for her to have a stack as well and she loved to tease him by asking when he was going to bring her some more.

We never seem to have enough blueberries for a pie. We’re lucky to get about a cup of berries after some serious harvesting. (As opposed to the one for the mouth, one for the cup dilatory picking when it’s really hot and you’re thinking having the oven on would be too much and whoops! Another one just fell into my mouth! kind of picking) I’m not sure if it’s because the dogs have gotten there first, or if a pie-baking cousin has swooped through already, but we’ve never made anything other than pancakes with our berries. I’ve noticed that the bushes are spreading to other sunny spots around the shore and I’m hoping that means that some year, I’ll get to make a pie with our own blueberries. If I keep the dogs locked up.

For now, my brother-in-law will just have to settle for his annual cup of berries, with loads of half-n-half and a generous dousing of sugar, to celebrate the season.

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