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blueberry picking

It’s time to get Picking and Celebrating the Blues

By Diane Bedard Posted on March 30, 2022

2022 Blueberry Season is On and Brooksville Brings Back the Blueberry Festival

Picking blueberries throughout Florida’s Nature Coast is one of my favorite things to do. I look forward to April when the season starts and go on multiple picking adventures through late May. I plan to get out this weekend to fill my first bucket of the season, which holds five to seven pounds.

Something about the open farmland, long rows of fruitful bushes, and leisure activity makes me happy.

Fresh picked blueberries taste a lot better than the store-bought ones. They are larger and keep a long time in the refrigerator. I give some to the neighbors, some to my friends, and I eat A LOT of blueberries while picking because they taste so good.

Fresh blueberries are soft to the touch and ripe. Ripe blueberries are fully formed, dark to medium blue, and pull easily from the bush. Just-picked blueberries make my taste buds sing for joy! There is a little bit of hunting for the perfect berry, adding just enough challenge to keep things interesting.

It is important to pick berries that are ripe because blueberries stop ripening as soon as they leave the bush. Remember, if the bush doesn’t want to give up its berry, you don’t want it.

boy picking blueberries
Children love to pick blueberries, making it a great family activity. Image courtesy of Florida Best Blueberry Farm.

Picking Fresh Fruit is a Safe, Outdoor Activity

Outdoors, with lots of fresh air between people, is the environment in which blueberries are picked. The fresh air, sunshine, and four-foot-tall bushes planted in wide farm rows make picking blueberries on a Nature Coast farm one of the safest things one can do. Even a high-density farm, where the blueberry bushes are planted closer in rows, provides plenty of safe space for pickers.

Expeditions to pick blueberries with friends or family achieves several goals; we catch up with what is happening, get some easy exercise and fresh air, go home with tasty treats, and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

One person can pick on one side of a row, while their partner picks the opposite side. The berries are usually plentiful at waist height and above for minimal bending. Every farm I have ever picked on has an “eat as many as you want while you pick” policy, so enjoying tasty mouthfuls between bits of conversation is part of the fun.

There is a lot of nature to experience on a blueberry farm. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Enjoying Nature during Your U-Pick Experience

And there are many living creatures to be found on a blueberry farm: butterflies, birds, bunnies, and bees all love a blueberry farm.

Families have a blast picking together! Children can pick the lower branches, run to their hearts content, and contribute to a bucket of healthy goodness.

Some farms encourage you to bring a picnic, some have farm animals and play areas, and some are simply fields of berry bushes in long, neat rows where the children can learn how their food is grown in Nature’s classroom.

Farms are a great classroom. Image by Ragan Photography, courtesy of Starkey Farms.

So, where is the best place to pick Florida-fresh Nature Coast blueberries?

We recommend choosing one of our NatureCoaster partner blueberry farms. Prices on the farm are much better than the stores, and they are priced per pound or bucket – not pint!

Some of these farms also offer u-pick strawberries and blackberries, which can overlap the blueberry season – or not. Ask the farmer.

Each location is unique and offers its own experience. Click on the Farm Names below for full profiles.

What to do with All those Blueberries?

Eat ‘em, share ‘em, make an Easter blueberry pie, jams, jellies, blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberries with whipped cream, blueberry cobbler, blueberry buckle, blueberry blintzes, blueberry waffles, blueberry syrup, blueberry smoothies, blueberry shakes, blueberry ice cream, blueberry shortcake, and blueberry cheesecake all come to mind!

Best of all, let’s celebrate the Nature Coast blueberry together.

brooksville blueberry festival flyer
Brooksville Mainstreet has brought back the Brooksville Blueberry Festival April 23-24. Image by Barry Mendl, courtesy of Brooksville Blueberry Festival.

The Brooksville Blueberry Festival is Back April 23-24

The Brooksville Blueberry Festival returns to downtown Brooksville April 23-24, 2022. Live concerts, more than 300 vendors, an endless supply of blueberry-infused yumminess, and a dedicated Kids Zone will keep visitors celebrating through Brooksville’s beautiful tree line streets.

New for this year is a craft beer garden by Marker 48 and returning is blueberry wine by Masaryk Winery. Stop by the Hospitality Center and enjoy an adult beverage.

“There really is something for everyone,” said Natalie Kahler, Brooksville Main Street’s Executive Director. “Everything Blueberry is on Blueberry Lane. Blueberry pies, blueberry cheesecake, blueberry shortcake, blueberry jam, blueberry honey, blueberry plants, fresh-picked blueberries and much more!”

Leesburg Blues Brothers
Lots of free music both days of the festival, headlining Sunday is the Leesburg Blues Brothers! Image courtesy of Leesburg Blues Brothers.

This year’s free live music lineup includes Wendy Rich, The Gaturze, World Class LostNFound Rock N Roll, Borderline, and headliner, Tommy Roxx & Nuthin’ Fancy on Saturday, with Festival hours from 10 am to 10 pm April 23.

Sunday, come on back for more great music with The Big Time Bankers, Local Harmony, Trinity Classic Rock Trio, and headliner, the Leesburg Blues Brothers Tribute headlining the shows. Festival Hours are 10 am to 6 pm April 24.

Street performers, including stilt performers and The Cowboy Circus world’s smallest rodeo will be infused throughout the festival to add to the fun-filled atmosphere. Additionally, there will be a Community Showcase to incorporate some of the downtown and local businesses and a Community Stage featuring some of Brooksville’s finest talents.

Bake your best blueberry pie with your fresh picked berries and enter it in the Brooksville Blueberry Festival pie contest April 24. Image by Barry Mendl courtesy of Brooksville Main Street.

Make a Pie and Win a Prize at the Festival

After you have gone picking, use some of your wonderful farm fresh blueberries to make a pie.

Why not enter it in the Brooksville Blueberry Festival Pie Contest April 24?

Represent your favorite farm – or your family recipe – and bring your pie to the Brooksville Blueberry Festival at noon on Sunday for judging. The best pie wins – and there are prizes! You can get full details by entering here.

There are a lot of fun activities at the Brooksville Blueberry Festival, including the Cowboy Circus. Image courtesy of Cowboy Circus.

Brooksville’s Blueberry Festival is Free and helps Local Charities

The festival is easy to find at the crossroads of US 41 and State Road 50. Downtown streets will be closed for this fun-filled festival, so come early and plan to stay for the day!

There is free packing on the streets and in several downtown parking lots including the Hernando County Health Department, the Vineyard Church, Miss Kitty’s. There will be paid parking to benefit local nonprofits in some lots also. A shuttle is available throughout the Festival to help visitors get around.

Admission is free for all and so is the entertainment.

A portion of the proceeds from The Brooksville Blueberry Festival go to help the area community, which makes it an even better reason to get out and get BLUE. For more information about this year’s Brooksville Blueberry Festival, please contact Brooksville Main Street at 352.540.6409.

fresh florida blueberries
It’s a great time to get out and enjoy picking blueberries on Florida’s Nature Coast. Image by Diane Bedard.

Things to Know before You Go Picking Blueberries

  • Pick early in the morning or later in the evening as the Florida sun can get a bit overbearing in the blueberry fields. It’s ok to pick in the heat of day but be prepared.
  • Bring water to keep hydrated.
  • Port-a-Potties are available at most farms.
  • Long sleeves and long pants are a good idea when you are picking, protecting from bugs, sunburns, burrs, and brambles.
  • Closed toe shoes are a must to keep the dirt out.
  • When you arrive, please park in the designated areas.
  • Some farms supply a bucket. A belt of baling twine will hold the bucket on your waist for an easy pick-and-go system. Others provide a grocery bag due to COVID concerns.
  • If you are traveling a long distance, bring a cooler with ice to hold your fresh blueberries.
  • A full bucket holds five to seven pounds of berries.
  • Farmers often have other fresh fruits and vegetables available on-site. Many you-pick blueberry farms offer locally grown honey and locally made preserves to tempt you. Others sell blueberry plants and other flora and produce.
  • Some farms take only cash or check.
  • It is a good idea to call ahead to ensure the farm is open, especially in inclement weather.

Fresh air, fresh, healthy food, light exercise, and a congenial atmosphere make for a worthwhile trip – and the amazing taste of a freshly picked blueberry, perhaps over ice cream or with fresh-made whipped cream, have made this one of my favorite Nature Coast traditions.

Get out there to pick your own before the end of May because they’ll be gone until 2023!

Comments

John Hart says

Hello Nancy, hope they'll be some left towards the end of May. Strawberries especially! Also to get my Arc T this Memorial day weekend in person J. Hart

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Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ says

Strawberries are likely to be gone by then, John. Blackberries may still be hanging on. We are looking forward to the ARC walk/run also.

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