Blueberry pickin’

Published 6:31 pm Monday, July 14, 2008

Dew still glistened off the bushes and off the blades of grass beneath Isja Cracraft’s feet as she diligently picked blueberries — laboring almost as hard as the worker bees buzzing around her head.

“I’m picking out the yucky ones,” the three–year–old replied to her mother as she later searched through an almost full bucket of the juicy fruit.

“We are filling up our freezer with blueberries,” Rhonda Cracraft of Calera said while she herself sought out the ripest berries at Lyons’ Blueberries in Wilsonville. “We put them in everything, but we have a thing for blueberry pancakes with smiley faces.”

The Cracraft family left the farm, after an hour or so, with seven gallons of blueberries. Rhonda Cracraft said this wasn’t their first trip and it won’t be their last either.

J.T. Lyons opened his place to the public about six years ago. Now, almost every summer day is filled with visitors — some first-timers, some familiar faces.

“Right now the whole field has started to blue up,” J.T. said. “By August it will be completely blue and the longer they hang on the vine, the juicier and sweeter they get.”

J.T., his wife Shirley and their daughter all toiled together to plant the first hundred or so bushes. There are now 900 bushes directly beside his house and more than 650 across the road.

“When they are fresh I love to take them and sprinkle them with sugar, just like strawberries,” Shirley Lyons said. “The blueberries didn’t do well at all at first. But now everyone knows that they are so healthy and that has helped us a lot.”

J.T. most recently planted 72 fig trees. He also has 25 pecan trees with plans to plant at least 100 more this fall, and 400 blackberry plants that should be ready to pick this time next year.

But the blueberries already hang on the vine prepared to sweeten up someone’s cereal or play a role in a good cobbler.

Rena Coleman of North Shelby said her husband loves them and even tried to plant a few bushes of their own.

“My husband eats them on his cereal … he just loves them,” Rena said. “We had planted several of our own but the drought killed them last year and our new ones haven’t bloomed yet. They’re just so nice to have.”

Others give away as much as they save for themselves.

“I enjoy giving them to someone who’s really crazy about them,” said customer Marion Henry of Birmingham. “I have a priest friend who just loves them. So, I give him the ones out of the freezer and I eat the fresh ones.”

J.T. said he’s happy to see people coming to pick the fruit.

“Shoot yea! With hundreds of those things, you couldn’t shake a stick at them by yourself,” J.T. proclaimed.

He said he has one customer that loves them so much he asks for 20 gallons each year. He says that’s how much it takes for he and his wife to eat blueberries in some form or fashion every single day of the year.

To get your own blueberry fix, you can visit any of the following U–pick farms in the county:

Balch Blueberry Farm in unincorporated Shelby County is open Wed.–Sat. 7 a.m.–7 p.m. A gallon of the bright blue fruit cost $8. For more information, call 672–2526.

Lyon’s Blueberries in Wilsonville is open seven days a week. Blueberries cost $7 a gallon. For more information, call 669–9205.

Morgan Creek Vineyards in Harpersville is open Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m. for blueberry picking. A gallon at Morgan Creek cost $12. For more information, call 672-2053.