Fresh blueberries and morePublished 7:00am Friday, July 4, 2014
Blueberries are in season, but there are only a few weeks left to either buy locally grown varieties or pick your own.
One such place is Blueberry Bluephoria at Toft Farms in northern Hancock County.
Owner Kathleen Toft said the berries are in their prime for picking, and will be that way until possibly the end of the month.
Anyone who wants to pick their own can do so for $8 a gallon. Toft also offers the pre-picked option for $15 a gallon.
The farm began back in the late 1980’s when Toft’s mother-in-law planted blueberry bushes. Today there are 600 bushes on the farm. While they are not certified organic, Toft said she sprays nothing on the bushes.
Toft became involved in the farm in 1997, and has expanded the offerings to more than just blueberries. Customers can purchase two blueberry bushes for $15. She sells them in pairs because two different varieties need to be near each other in order for them to produce fruit.
Eggs, jam, honey and organic vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and green peppers are also grown at the farm. Toft said she sells them when they are in season and she has enough.
While the farm is open every day from sunrise to sunset during blueberry season, customers interested in making a purchase off-season should call 601-749-0136 for an appointment and to see what is available.
Toft also pays people to help her pick the enormous amount of berries on the numerous bushes. She offers $5 a gallon to anyone interested in helping with the harvest, but suggests coming early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the summer heat.
“You don’t want to be picking after 10:30 a.m.,” Toft said.
During the peak of the season a gallon can be picked in about 30 minutes. As the season progresses picking a gallon can take a bit longer, Toft said.
All of the berries at her farm are harvested by hand, since machines are costly and cause damage to the bushes, she said.
Once harvested, Toft likes to let the berries sit at room temperature for about 24 hours to let them sweeten.
Afterwards, they can be stored in a refrigerator for up to a week before freezing is necessary. Frozen blueberries are good for up to two years, Toft said.
The farm will be open on the Fourth of July, but will close at noon.
Hurricane Katrina damage led to renovations to the farmhouse may lead to the creation of a cafe at the farm, Toft said.
Some other additions planned at the farm include establishing five beehives to help her pollinate her crops and adding other types of berries such as thornless blackberries.
Toft also offers blueberry delivery. For a full list of their offerings and prices visit http://www.toftfarms.com/.