Tips for Blueberry Picking & A Recipe for Raw Peach Tart with Blueberry Coconut-Ginger Cream (GF, DF, Paleo)
A few weeks ago, before the weather unleashed Egypt-style blazing hot temps, my husband and I decided to make a day trip out of our raw milk pickup and visited the most adorable little blueberry farm out in Knockville, Maryland — right across the Virginia border. We live in the Northern Virginia area, so we were unexposed to the scenic Virginia mountainside views until recently. The trip up north through the mountains is breathtaking. Whoever came up with the saying ‘Virginia is for lovers’ is right on the money. The blueberry farm, quirkily named Frog Eye Farm, was recommended to us by our wonderful dairy farmer. Not only is the pick-your-own blueberries price only $3 per pound (how do you like that compared to the $5/pint you’ll find at Whole Foods!?), but the berries also qualify for organic certification because they’re completely chemical-and-pesticide-free. Seriously awesome.
Some other awesome things about Frog Eye Farm:
- I already mentioned the pick-your-own blueberry price is $3/lb (!)
- Totally chemical-free and organically-grown
- The farm owners are super nice and friendly
- There are over 20 blueberry varieties in the orchard – it’s really interesting to taste the subtle differences between the varieties: some taste grape-like, others are very distinctly blueberry; some are tart and others are noticeably sweet and juicy …
- … which brings me to my next point: part of the fun is sampling the berries right off the vines!
- You can pick berries while getting some essential Vitamin D (from the sun)
- Blueberries you eat while picking can help protect you from potential sunburn (but make sure you go early in the morning during the hot summer months!)
- It’s located in one of the most beautiful areas in VA – nestled between scenic lush mountains and nearby vineyards
I’ve been to the lovely farm twice so far and I can’t wait to go again before blueberry season is over in late July/early August! I put together some tips for a successful blueberry-picking experience:
- Go early: The first time I went I followed the advice on Frog Eye’s website and went early – the weather was beautiful and we didn’t get sunburned. The second time I went, it was hotter and we went later in the day, so it got a bit uncomfortable towards the end of the time (around 2 PM). I highly recommend going blueberry picking as early as you can.
- Bring water: Good idea to stay hydrated while out in the sun.
- Wear something comfortable: This speaks for itself. You’re going to be doing a bit of crouching down to grab some plump berries in hard-to-reach places, so opt for shorts, capris or a long dress – hopefully light-colored to deflect some of the sun’s heat.
- Don’t leave your picked berries unattended: Last time we went, we placed our baskets on the ground for five minutes while we helped the owners with their tent, and when we came back, we found a few ants crawling through our freshly-picked berries. My only thought: there are berries on the ground and on the vines – why are the ants so diabolical?! Anyway, we were able to shake most of them off (and the rest we picked out), but lesson learned: don’t place baskets on the ground or leave the berries you picked unattended! (p.s. Check out my handsome hubby picking berries!)
- Sample the varieties: If the blueberry farm doesn’t spray any pesticides, and if they’re kind enough to let you sample, make sure to try a sample of the different varieties before picking and bagging. The ones that taste distinctly like blueberries are my favorite!
- Pick the bluest, plumpest ones: I learned at Frog Eye Farm that blueberries don’t continue ripening once plucked from the bush (who knew?), so it makes the most sense to pick the ripest (i.e. deepest blue) berries you can find. They should be plump (juicy) but still taut (not at all squishy). If you like a little tartness, you probably also want to pick a few that have a small pink disk around the stem. The more pink, the more tart, and some tart ones are a bit refreshing I must say.
- If you have the freezer space, pick a lot: Unless you happen to live right next to a blueberry farm, it’s probably a wise idea to try to get as much as you can when you go — you can easily freeze the berries for later use year-round.
- Bring a couple of large clear sealable bags: Most places will give you bags if you need them, but it’s nice to have clear bags for easy storage when you get home. (Frog Eye Farm offers plastic bags if you don’t have your own.)
- Bring a cooler with ice: Keeping the blueberries in the cooler with ice will help keep your blueberries fresh on your drive home.
- Consider making a day trip out of it: Go exploring in the area around the farm if you have some time. The first time we went, we hit up a vineyard in the area, Hiddencroft Vineyards – which was great (review coming on the blog!) We also stumbled upon Antietam National Battlefield, where we decided to have a picnic (another tip: pack a yummy lunch!). What a beautiful battelfield:
- How to store blueberries: When you get home, you’ll want to place some of the berries in the fridge, and if you decide to freeze any, simply rinse under cold water, soak for a bit in cool water with a splash of vinegar, and rinse well. Spread on a baking sheet to dry; and once dry, bag them in ziplock or other sealable bags. I learned this trick from the kind lady at Frog Eye Farm: after you’ve zipped the bag shut, make a tiny opening in the top, insert a straw and suck out as much air as you can — so it’s kind of vacuum-packed in a way. Blueberries will keep for about a week in the fridge and for several months in the freezer.
Using blueberries in the kitchen
The first time I got the berries, we ate many of them fresh (it’s hard to resist!) They taste delightful on their own, and they go really well in a full-fat yogurt parfait with some coconut manna and a drip of raw honey. More recently, I made a deliciously juicy blueberry-beef burger (recipe coming soon!), grain-free blueberry-banana pancakes and last week, I added them to a raw tart I made on a whim. The possibilities for recipes involving fresh blueberries are as limitless as your imagination allows … I definitely see this blueberry dark chocolate chip ice cream in my future (as soon as I decide to make the ice cream maker purchase!)
Today I’d like to share with you the recipe of the raw tart I made last week using both fresh blueberries and ripe peaches that I got from the farmers’ market. Back in April, I decided to start volunteering at the weekly local government-sponsored farmer’s market in my area, and it’s been a wonderful experience so far. One of the perks of volunteering is getting a handsome discount on a lot of the produce there. One of the vendors even insists on giving me extra ripe peaches free of charge – so nice!
Look how velvety these beauties look – what a cool texture!
How to make a raw tart
As I mentioned, I made a raw peach tart with blueberry coconut-ginger cream the other day, and it was a hit. This tart is light and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer’s day like today. Similar to the grain-free apple pie and the grain-free pumpkin pie I made in the fall, this peach tart is made of a nuts-and-dates crust (with spices), so it’s perfect for anyone who eats a gluten-free diet or is avoiding a lot of grains for whatever reason. Once you’ve made the “crust” and pressed it down into your pie dish, the filling is quite simple to make. The key to making a successful raw pie or tart is to make sure it’s smooth and juicy enough, but still holds together. Using coconut oil and/or cream in the filling helps because it helps the filling solidify in the fridge. Another good tip is to use ground chia (which tastes very subtle), agar-agar (a type of clear seaweed that’s almost tasteless), or high-quality unflavored beef gelatin (obviously not vegan).
For this tart, I decided on a coconut-ginger cream, which is vegan (with the exception of the honey), and so it’s also dairy-free and egg-free. The filling is made creamy with the use of a smooth cashew cream (using soaked cashews) and a bit of coconut cream, and the blueberries and honey add just the perfect amount of sweetness. (I bet cream cheese from grass-fed milk would be a yummy substitute for the cashews, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I went with the vegan version.) The addition of ginger was kind of an afterthought, but it worked well, because it gave the otherwise mild-and-sweet filling a nice background spiciness. Now that I think about it, I should have added more fresh ginger … hmm. Maybe next time!
Okay, enough with my blabbing, and on with the recipe. Hope some of you get to try it!
Raw Peach Tart with Blueberry Coconut-Ginger Cream (GF, DF, Paleo)
Prep Time: 45 minutes + 1 hr. chilling time
Keywords: raw breakfast dessert side snack gluten-free low-sodium soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian almond flour peach blueberry ginger Orthodox Christian Fasts tart pie spring summer
Ingredients (Serves 8-9)
For the crust:
- 1 cup dates, soaked and drained
- 1 cup walnuts, soaked overnight and dehydrated
- 1 cup almond flour (I used already-ground almonds, but you can grind your own)
- 1 tablespoon mesquite flour (optional, but adds a nice background taste)
- 1 teaspoon fair-trade organic vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of unrefined salt
For the filling:
- 1 cup fresh organic blueberries
- 1 1/4 cup cashews, soaked overnight and drained
- 3 tablespoons coconut cream (also called coconut manna)
- 3 teaspoons raw honey
- 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
- 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice (juice of half lime)
- 2-3 teaspoons fair-trade organic vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, ground
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/3 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1/2 teaspoon unrefined salt
To top the filling:
- 4 fresh organic peaches, sliced
- a few drops of lime juice
(1) Make the grain-free ‘crust’: Soak the dates for half an hour in warm water. Grind the soaked and dehydrated/toasted walnuts and/or almonds with the soaked (and drained) dates in a food processor. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon mesquite flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, a pinch of ground nutmeg, and a dash of unrefined mineral salt. Blend well to mix in the spices. Then, distribute the mixture evenly on the bottom of a 10-inch pie plate. Make sure to cover all areas of the pie plate evenly and compactly so it can hold together well (the stickiness of the dates does a good job of keeping the crust together anyway).
(2) Make the filling: In a food processor or powerful blender, add the soaked cashews and blend until smooth. Add the cup of fresh blueberries, 3 tablespoons of coconut cream, 3 teaspoons of raw honey (or sweetener of choice), 2 tablespoons coconut oil and blend. If sweet enough, continue adding the rest of the ingredients: a tablespoon of freshly ground ginger root, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/3 teaspoon cardamom powder and 1/2 teaspoon unrefined salt. Blend again until all ingredients are well-integrated. Taste for sweetness and zest – if more lime or honey is needed, add a little bit at a time.
(3) Add mixture into crust: Spoon out the mixture and add it into your grain-free spiced crust. Use the back of a spoon to level the top and smooth it out. Chill in the fridge for about an hour for the filling to set.
(4) Slice peaches and arrange on top: Slice 3-4 organic peaches into fourth, slicing each fourth further to get thin slices as in the pictures above. Squeeze some lime juice on the peaches to keep them looking fresh, and arrange them on top of the cooled tart. Keep refrigerated for a couple of hours (preferably) before serving chilled.