Summer Treasure at Velma’s Farmstand in Boonville

by Torrey Douglass

I’d never stopped to consider just how versatile the humble blueberry is, but the number of eating options for this little sister of the berry family is impressive. You can throw a handful in your pancake or muffin batter to add some fruity pop. You can toss some on your oatmeal or cereal, turn them into tarts and pies, or put up a batch of jelly. I like to throw some into a mixed green salad with feta and almonds with a fruity balsamic dressing. They really are the ultimate multi-tasker of berries. But of all the possibilities, eating them sun-warmed just off the bush needs to be pretty close to the top.

At least, that’s how it is in the home of Chris and Stephanie Tebbutt, owners of Filigreen Farm just outside of Boonville. “If they’re fresh, they’re gone,” laughs Stephanie, whose ripe blueberry season begins right around Fourth of July. She finds she has to hide a flat or two for freezing so she has them on hand in winter to add to smoothies. That’s the time when our bodies crave some summer sun (and the antioxidants blueberries offer).

Filigreen Farm has grown blueberries for thirteen years. They have six varieties that ripen at different times of the summer, keeping them bountiful from July through the end of August. Unlike apples, where different varieties are good for different uses, all blueberries are great for any type of eating, but Stephanie recommends enjoying the large and luscious ones out of your hand and saving the smaller ones for preserves and pies.

Blueberries aren’t hard to grow if you have the right dirt. They like acidic soil, so using wood chips and leaf mold as a heavy mulch is critical. There aren’t many diseases or pests that threaten them, but you do want to protect them from hard frosts when in bloom and heat over 90 degrees once they have fruit. They require regular irrigation, pruning every few years, and thinning if they have too many berries so the plant doesn’t stress. Keep an eye on them until they get established, and then you are on the fast track to blueberry heaven.

“Look at the huckleberries in Hendy Woods,” comments Stephanie, referring to how those relatives of the blueberry thrive in our local state park. “When you see how the huckleberries grow, you know Mendocino County is a good place for blueberries, given the right soil conditions.”

Be sure to get your hands on some of Filigreen Farm’s blueberries this summer at Velma’s, their farm stand on Anderson Valley Way in Boonville. You can also get them at Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op and as a fruit share for CSA members of Live Power Community Farm. Guaranteed to make your summer sweet!

Velma’s Farm Stand
11750 Anderson Valley Way, Boonville
Open Friday–Monday, 10am–4pm 

Recipe: Blueberry Ginger Granita

In the heat of summer, this flavored crushed ice combines the sweet pop of blueberries with the zing of ginger. Stick your feet in a kiddie pool under a big umbrella and pass a tray around for a delicious afternoon cool-off.

  • 2 Tbsp ginger, chopped and peeled
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, superfine
  • 2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice

Grind the ginger and sugar in a food processor until well blended. Add the blueberries and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a sieve over a 8–9" pie pan, then force as much of the liquid through as you can. Stir in the lime juice and water, then freeze. Be sure to stir and crush any ice lumps every hour. Scrape it with a fork to give it a fluffier texture. It’s ready for serving after four hours but can also be frozen in a covered container for up to three days (you can rescrape with a fork if you need to). Serves four.

Inspired by a recipe in Gourmet magazine, May 2002.