It’s one of the most anticipated seasons of the farmers market year. Those blueberries, fat spheres of juicy sweetness, are such a far cry from supermarket ones – small as currants, often flavourless – that they could be another fruit entirely. Blueberry Fields has been working the markets for a long time now, used to the sight of customers walking away munching the berries straight out of their small buckets.
Otto Saeck started out with a lychee farm at Newrybar about 30 years ago. Then he experimented with blueberries and quickly saw that there was a better future in those than in lychees. Jascha, his son, is telling me about the different flavours that blueberries develop through their various stages of ripening; that the farm grows three main varieties; that the white sheen, a waxy bloom on the berries denotes a healthy fruit. ‘People’, he says, ‘mistake that for chemical residue, but it’s a sign the fruit hasn’t been handled too much, or damaged or bruised.’ Their blueberries are all hand-picked and -sorted – at peak season up to 80 pickers are required – so no machinery or vigorous packing. Everything gets washed with food-safe sprays, Jascha tells me, and the farm regularly submits to rigorous testing to ensure there are no chemicals on the fruit.
I have to ask Jascha if he ever gets sick of the berries (‘not yet!’) and if the family uses them in cooking. He says that his mother not only makes a ‘nice blueberry cake’ but also macerates them in an alcoholic syrup, which immediately reminds me of a favourite, very easy dessert of mine: blueberries heated, softened and melted in a sugar syrup with Cointreau and brandy, set aside to chill, then served topped with stiffly whipped cream and a nutty chocolatey crunch.
Blueberry Fields can be found at New Brighton on Tuesdays 8 – 11am and Mullumbimby on Fridays 7 – 11am