Fruits of Labor

I woke up to 57 degrees, opened the windows, turned on the oven. Now the house smells of blueberries and butter.

It reminded me of a favorite post, with a much-loved recipe at the end. **

berries in straw

Berries in straw.

There is a huge advantage to having small children when berry picking season begins.

They are closer to the ground. They find the best strawberries.

That might have been the family strategy when we went out every year at about this time. We ate as many as we picked, most of our haul ended up as preserves, in the freezer.

Moving to Michigan, we learned that it is the second largest producer of blueberries in the US; the hot, humid climate and proximity to major lakes guarantees the successful crop.

So when invited for a day of berry picking, we headed to the coast.

We were renting a small place, no freezer, so I planned to pick only what I could use in the near future or give away.

That didn’t happen.

I took the largest containers I had, filled them to the brim.

My childhood berry picking memories took over, and I temporarily lost my mind.

And so it began. I wasn’t much for preserving, but I was happy to bake.

Blueberry muffins, cheesecakes, crumb-topped coffee cakes, overstuffed pies, pancakes and fresh syrup.

That was all in the first week.

Michigan blues


We discovered, a bit too late, that blueberries are extremely rich in iron.

Anemic in childhood, I was force-fed iron rich foods.  I knew about iron, beneficial and essential.

It also leads to interesting digestive issues.


I apologized to my husband. We got over it.

From that year on, I passed on the blueberry picking outing with friends.

I bought them by the pint, like everyone else with common sense.


Blueberry Crumb Cake

Mix 2 cups each of flour, oats, brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda. Blend dry ingredients with 2 sticks (1 cup) cold butter until crumbly. Press 1/2 of mixture into greased 9×13 baking pan. Top with 3-4 cups blueberries. Cover berries with other 1/2 crumb mix. Bake 45 min. at 350 degrees.

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88 Responses to Fruits of Labor

  1. Amy says:

    That looks delicious. There is nothing like fresh blueberries. Yum! I didn’t know they were rich in iron either.

  2. Oooh, I’d have a freezer-full of blueberries if I could. They make awesome smoothies. And you get stains on your teeth and in the sink and everything!
    I agree about the benefits of being short for berry picking. I’m 5’10” and not nearly as nimble as I used to be!

    • Ha ha, they are a challenge for the tall, not sure that there’s anything that grows quite that close to the ground. Blueberry teeth…had those. Thanks, Maggie ☺ Van

  3. Sweet as berries. I love this piece. Thanks.

  4. Oh but the fresh ones must have been so delicious Van! I love homemade blueberry cinnamon jam! ❤
    Diana xo

  5. LaVagabonde says:

    I love to pick wild berries in the forest. There’s usually just enough for a small snack. 🙂

    • Oh, I forgot about the wild berries…they were a favorite in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania…blackberries, I think. My aunt had property there. Thanks, Julie ☺

  6. Blueberries are my favorite fruit. I can’t imagine bushes so high you don’t need to bend over! Yum.

  7. Silver Threading says:

    I have strawberries I planted last year with one of my granddaughters. She was not here this year to pick them. Between the slugs and the birds, they had a feast! LOL!

  8. Nurse Kelly says:

    Craving them now! I actually put them on many things for their antioxidant properties. Don’t usually encounter digestive issues, so I guess I’m safe in the amount I’m eating! Wonderful post, Van. Love your personal stories. 🙂

    • Nice to hear it doesn’t affect everyone that way…it was “hard” on us, though. ☺ Thanks, Kelly. I find the personal stuff the most fun to write..kind of organic !

  9. LadyPinkRose says:

    Hehehehehehe All things in moderation, Van. Oh this is too funny! I remember my berry picking days as a kid and by the time I and my brothers and sisters were done, our faces and hands were all stained. We ate as we picked. LOL Oh you brought some good memories back. Thank you!!! Love, Amy ❤

  10. Yes, well, the wild blueberries of New England are the low bush variety and oh, mama mia, are they ever good. So much better than the high bush berries, IMHO. Trouble is, you pick for an entire afternoon and end up with about 2/3 cup. Therefore, to the store I go. Hiho, hiho!

    • I’d venture to say that my berry picking days are numbered, Barbara. Now, in the fall…there are apples, as long as I don’t have to climb that tree ! ☺ Van

  11. What a fun read! I can’t remember the last time I went berry picking….time to explore the local farms!

  12. lbeth1950 says:

    In the South we have wild Dewberries but you have to fight with the chiggers. They always win. Also snakes are out in the weedy places where dewberries grow. That is discouraging.

  13. George says:

    Makes me ready and hungry for blueberry season.

  14. Angie Mc says:

    Loooooove blueberries! I’ve never picked them…just get mine at Costco. Sad, I know.

  15. A.PROMPTreply says:

    Hah! Now this is alot of fun (well, to read about anyway!). Looking forward to more of your posts!

  16. The V Pub says:

    I tried growing blueberries but they were never productive for me. So, I tried raspberries and they shoot up new canes all of the time. As long as I get them before the birds do, the harvest will be good. Thanks for the recipe!

  17. haha Van, this was sweet and lovely! It’s so funny when we get into things like that! I am used to cooking for 11 so I tend to prepare so much and make huge amounts. I can imagine picking the berries right next to you! xx

  18. I go up to Michigan almost very year with my girlfriends and we bring back tons of blueberries to freeze. I didn’t know about the iron, though…

  19. Thank you Van! Will be in Michigan soon for an all day berry and lavender harvest day. We pick too much, just for the fun of it. Then freeze some, sell some, and give away some to neighbors and friends.
    Will try your recipe today with Raspberries.
    I’m almost out of my homemade raspberry/orange jam. I think I like making it more than eating it.

    Where I grew up, around the Mediterranean we had a honey sweet berry, I’ll have to find the name of it in english. That didn’t come off a bush, we picked them climbing the branches of trees as tall as a five-floor building.

  20. Ha,ha. Wisdom comes with experience. Thank you for the recipe. I’ll try this.

  21. Erika Kind says:

    Oh, I love blueberries and all kinds of pastries which contains them. I have black currant in my garden. Due to the cool spring season and the still very wet weather they still need some time until we can pick them.

  22. Love blueberries! I usually combine blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries in organic cottage cheese or organic steel cut oatmeal. They are a wonderful source of nutrition and help reduce oxidation and inflammation.

    I like the way you incorporated the family story as well to humanize the entire experience. I realized by the time I finished reading, I had a nice smile on my face. Thank you for that! 🙂

    • Berries with cottage cheese and a side of grilled pita bread…my favorite breakfast, until the fresh cantaloupes arrive. Glad to make you smile, you’re most welcome. ☺

  23. Val Boyko says:

    Memories of dirty knees and overstuffed with berries! Thank you Van 💛

  24. Wow. You’ve triggered an onslaught of memories…. Thank you

  25. That recipe sounds amazing!

  26. lbeth1950 says:

    Berry picking is a mixed pleasure. We picked wild blackberries which are very thorny. They other bad part was the chiggers and ticks that picked us. Then there were snakes.

  27. Fresh blueberries are wonderful! 😊

  28. How wonderful I can’t even imagine picking wild blueberries!! Jealous of 57 degrees! 8:38 pm and still 93 degrees. Love the recipe and will have to make some this fall. You should make some easy blueberry Jam in the crockpot. Blueberries, sugar, vanilla. Crock pot on low all night.

  29. Thumbup says:

    57 degrees sounds good!

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