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Blueberries are ripe for the picking

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By Holly Ebel

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN  

Scene two of the summer berry picking season is about to begin, so get ready for blueberries to take center stage.

"Our season is about seven to 10 days behind because of the cool weather, but that has changed and the berries are ready for picking," says Terry Cuddy, who, with husband John, own Rush River Produce in Maiden Rock, Wis.

An hour from Rochester, It is one of the premier self-pick farms for blueberries in the area.

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The Cuddys have been in the business since 1986, when they purchased 160 acres of land near Maiden Rock.

"We had just moved back from the central valley of California — fruit heaven — and we wanted to try our hand at the same thing," Terry says.

The University of Minnesota had just developed three varieties of cold-hardy blueberries, and they decided to give that a try, starting by planting the acres closest to the house. At the time, they were commuting to jobs in Minneapolis.

They now have 9,000 bushes, 9 miles of rows over 9 acres. Another acre is devoted to growing currants and gooseberries. Though gooseberries are more popular in Europe than here "we have a devoted following that come out every year," Terry says.

The Cuddys’ operation is very family-friendly and a great place to go for a picnic either before or after picking. This year, picking is allowed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays through Sunday.

"When we first had blueberries we were open every day," Terry says. "That was crazy."

They cut back on the afternoon hours because blueberries can be affected by the heat of the afternoon sun, and in the car driving home.

Call before going there to make sure the picking is good, or to have your berries picked in advance.

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"That is how my two sons earn money," Terry says, laughing.

Their season will go well into August.

Blueberries contain plenty of antioxidants and are a rich source of fiber, but they contain only 80 calories per cup. An extremely versatile and hardy berry, they can top your cereal, go into baked goods, or just be eaten out of hand.

Fresh blues will keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks and are simple to freeze — just put them, unwashed, in freezer bags. They can keep for one year. She suggests when using them frozen, to coat berries with a little flour to keep them from streaking.

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