In season: Blueberries

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We recently visited 40-year old Hastings Farm located in Dayton, Tennessee. It’s blueberry season, after all… farm owner Layton Hastings was happy to share the history of the farm as well as some helpful tidbits about blueberries.

It all began in 1964 when Buddy Hastings, Layton’s father, bought the farm from his mother. A little over 20 years later, Buddy began successfully growing blueberries. Layton recalls his father spending the days in the blueberry patches, picking blueberries from sunup to sundown. Today Layton Hastings has about 300 blueberry plants on his farm.

CM: After such a harsh spring, how did your blueberry crops fare?
LH: We try to prepare as best we can for harsh weather. For instance, if we know there is a frost coming, we are out in the fields the day before doing everything in our power to keep our crop from ruining. Due to the weather this year, our crops have dropped just a little from last year, but overall, our crops are still good.

CM: What is the key to growing blueberries at home?
LH: There are three components to growing good, delicious blueberries: plenty of water, maintaining, and pruning, which is trimming away dead or overgrown branches or stems to increase fruitfulness and growth.

CM: Does your farm have a pick-your-own? If so, how does it work?
LH: Yes, I invite the public out to my farm to pick their own blueberries. Because of the heat, most people will start coming in around 8:00 am and pick until the sun starts to get warm. Then I have people come back around the afternoon once the sun’s heat starts going away.

CM: How many varieties of blueberries do you grow?
LH: We only have one variety. Southern Highbush Blueberries. These are some of the nation’s most commercially popular blueberries. They are heat-tolerant, which means they do well in higher average temperatures. They are also self-pollinating and ripen a bit earlier in the year.

CM: What’s the best way to keep already picked blueberries fresh?
LH: Keep them in a clean cool area in your house. Refrigeration will extend their freshness and shelf life. If you prefer frozen blueberries, make sure to keep them in a freezer safe container to keep the skins from hardening.

CM: What is your favorite recipe that includes blueberries?
LH: My mother loves to make blueberry jam, which is always a customer favorite. My favorite is blueberry wine. My father began making blueberry wine many years ago and he taught me how once I came of age. Hastings Farm is a certified winery and will soon have a retail store where customers can buy wine.

CM: How can regular folks determine good quality blueberries from sub-par?
LH: To find the best blueberries, look for softness and texture. A good soft, berry means it’s going to be nice and sweet. Fruits get their sweetness from sunshine and heat. Additionally, here at Hastings Farm, we have organic blueberries.

CM staff favorite? Easy Bistro Owner and Executive Chef, Erik Niel’s “Blueberry Pie Milkshake”. This taste of heaven is available only during peak season (about 6-8 weeks) at the restaurant for the freshest berries. Here’s the recipe to make your own with Hastings Farm blueberries.

Love to eat local like we do? Download the Pick Tennessee Mobile App to utilize the Farm and Restaurant Directory when dining out. Visit PickTNProducts.org for more. Promotional support provided by Pick Tennessee.

CM staff favorite recipe?
Easy Bistro Owner and Executive Chef, Erik Niel’s “Blueberry Pie Milkshake.” This taste og heaven is available only during peak season (about 6-8 weeks) at the restaurant. Here’s the recipe to make your own using Hastings Farm blueberries.

Blueberry Milkshake
1.5 tablespoons of macerated fresh-picked blueberries
2 cups vanilla ice cream (Erik prefers Clumpies)
1/4 cup milk

Blend vanilla ice cream and milk. Then stir in macerated blueberries to make a marbleized look. Makes one milkshake.

Photography by Our Ampersand Photo

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Brittney is the Digital Asset Manager of Chattanooga Magazine.

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