Blueberries For Days
Hazel Blue Acres, Silvana/Arlington
I’ve been a city gal basically all of my life. In recent years though, I’ve been feeling the pull of the country. These days I want nothing more than to live somewhere with wide open spaces, mountain views, ingredients growing in the backyard, and of course a few goats and chickens. Someday it will happen! In the meantime, I get to enjoy all of those things through my Live the SnoCo Life travels.
That includes finding locally grown food in the backyards of U-Pick farms. With the exception of pumpkins, the last time I did the U-Pick thing would probably have been when I was a kid, if I ever did it at all. Don’t get me wrong though, I am a frequent visitor to roadside and produce stands, always on the lookout to find fresh ingredients for my culinary creations (I rarely follow a recipe).
Why do it now then? First off, after discovering that the town of Silvana is in Snohomish County (laugh all you want), I knew I had to explore it more, including a visit to Hazel Blue Acres. Second, if you follow along with me at all, then you know that I have created more than my fair share of recipes featuring blueberries (magazine/web subscribers can catch two of them later this month).
I can’t think of a better way to make my recipes more personal, and fun to make, then by picking the blueberries that go into them myself. So, one sunny Saturday morning, The SnoCo Kid and I made the journey to Hazel Blue Acres, strapped on our buckets, and made our way up and down aisle after aisle of blueberries, picking some of the biggest and juiciest ones we’ve ever seen.
For someone like me who spends more time in front of phone or computer screen then away from one, slowing down and picking blueberries was like stepping into another world. Despite being joined by others, the field was quiet and peaceful. Eagles, hawks, and other birds flew overhead. There was green as far as the eye could see. More importantly, there was just something about making our way from bush to bush, delicately sweeping blueberries into our bucket, that was beyond relaxing.
That is what it was for me anyway. For The SnoCo Kid, it was more of a challenge, and a fun one at that. She spent the morning intent on not only finding the biggest and best blueberries (they are hidden at the bottom according to her), but on making sure she filled her bucket before me. Yes, she did beat me, but not by much.
Whether you are looking to relax, have fun, or just pick some blueberries, Hazel Blue Acres is the perfect place to do it. It is, of course, family owned. You will find it located along the Stillaguamish River in the small town of Silvana (an offshoot of Arlington). It is home to owners Spencer and Karen Fuentes, some of the nicest folks you will ever meet. If you take the time to visit, be sure to chat with them a bit and get to know them.
The two weren’t always blueberry farmers though. Instead, they both got their start growing up on dairy farms. Their very first blueberry plants didn’t go into the ground until 2008, and it has been nothing but blueberries ever since. Well, them and hazelnuts, and other things, but mostly blueberries. You get the idea!
As someone who attempted to grow a blueberry plant recently, I can attest to just how not easy that is. Mine didn’t even survive its first few weeks despite my diligent care. If one bush didn’t stand a chance, there is no way I could grow a huge field full of the things. That’s something best left to experts like Spencer and Karen.
Fast forward ten years to the present, and you can now find not one, but three varieties of blueberries growing on their farm – Reka, Draper and Liberty, all certified organic of course. What did we pick while there? The featured photos, and our filled buckets, are Draper blueberries all the way.
So, now that you have some background info on Hazel Blue Acres, what can you expect when visiting the farm?
Besides friendly owners, your U-Pick experience will begin with getting fitted with a bucket. For the moms out there, and good dads, the buckets are akin to baby carriers. They are strapped onto your front with a bag for your haul, then you are sent off into the best aisles available for picking. The SnoCo Kid and I settled on filling a bag each, which fits about five pounds, but many of those who joined us out in the field were filling bag after bag.
If you are a first timer, there are a few things you will figure out fairly quickly. The first of which is just how easily blueberries fall off the bushes. While you might intend to pick one or two, even the gentlest touch will send them and those around them falling. The lesson to be had, hold your hand or your bucket underneath where you are picking, otherwise more blueberries will end up on the ground then in your bucket. Words of wisdom.
Another thing you will realize, if you are anything like us, is that, the more extra big and juicy blueberries you find, the more you will become focused on finding them and skip over the smaller, but still big, ones. Thinking of it now, it seems a bit silly, but it is probably safe to say that, if we were to return to those fields, we would probably do the same thing all over again.
The result of that, for us, was going up and down three different aisles, spending far less time at individual bushes then others around us seemed to be doing. Perhaps we have more to learn about blueberry picking, or about being less picky about picking in general.
Lastly, you are going to realize that Hazel Blue Acres is more than just a U-Pick farm. They also have blueberries ready to go if you aren’t up for strapping a bucket on, in addition to some delicious blueberry flavored food products to fill your kitchen with. That includes syrup and jam (available at Reclaimed Heart in Arlington too), as well as ice cream made locally by Lopez Island Creamery.
We didn’t opt for ice cream on our visit, as much as we wanted to, thanks to plans to eat breakfast at Willow & Jim’s Country Cafe up the road. Maybe on another trip. Something else we are hoping to return for is their free cooking demos. Yep, you read right. They will teach you how to make your own culinary creations with a blueberry twist for free. I’m watching out for a dessert one.
Not that we need any help in that department. Some of the blueberries we picked went straight into my famous pancakes the very next morning. Others went into one of the healthy smoothie recipes found in this issue (catch it HERE if you are a magazine or web subscriber, which reminds me, I kind of want to add some to the banana one, hmmmm). The rest, they are safely tucked away in our freezer because, well, we can’t possibly eat ten pounds of blueberries that fast. That would be enough pancakes to last a year.
Enough about food though, it is making me hungry just writing about it. The bottom line, and all you really need to know, is that blueberries are good, and local blueberries are even better. So, when you are in the mood for the some big, juicy, blue balls of goodness, choose local. Go pick some, buy some, or buy something featuring them. Hazel Blue Acres is the perfect option for doing all three.
Find out more about Hazel Blue Acres at:
Did you know that this article, as well as all of the others featured on our website are part of a monthly magazine. Our monthly magazine is available in both electronic and print form (yes, you read right, print!).
Monthly and annual subscriptions can be bought HERE. Finally, a limited number of printed copies are available at The Chic Boatique, Artisans Mercantile, and Tried & True Boutique in Snohomish and Reclaimed Heart in Arlington, Vintage Company No. 7 in Bothell, Ladders Clothing & Company in Stanwood Island, Rustic Redemption in Granite Falls, and Vintage & Rust in Monroe each month.