This past week my son and I went on a road trip to visit colleges and attend campus tours at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Barbara. I can’t believe it is time to start thinking about college?! It seems that I was just sending him off to kindergarten and buying him Legos and light sabers. Where does the time go… I can’t express how proud I am of the young man my son has become and how immensely blessed I feel to have him in my life.
I mentioned to my friend Carolyn in NYC that I was going to Santa Barbara and she told me of a U-pick blueberry farm in Santa Barbara, which is where she grew up. She forwarded me the website address and I decided to go visit the farm while we were on our road trip.
I have picked blueberries only once before in my life… when I was a summer exchange student in high school. I went to Norway for a two-month summer program. While in Norway, my host family took me to their cabin in the montains, which we had to hike up hill for two miles to reach it while packing in everything we needed for the seven day visit. And, we had to make that hike twice! The cabin did not have electricity, running water, or a toilet. It was basically camping with a roof over our heads. We were two adults and five kids. Our days were filled with hikes to the snowmelt streams for water and bathing, outdoor activities, cooking, and wild blueberry and mushroom picking. Our evenings were spent in lamplight reading, knitting, playing games, and talking and laughing. The week spent in the Norwegian mountains was a wonderful experience that brought me so close to nature, myself, and to the people that so graciously opened their home, and “humble” cabin, to me.
Santa Barbara Blueberry Farm is located 4.5 miles south of Buelton on the northbound side of Highway 101 in the rolling hills of Santa Ynez Valley. Santa Barbara Blueberry Farm is a part of the 1,000 acre Restoration Oaks Cattle Ranch, which is owned and operated by the Jacks Family.
The farm occupies 18 acres of the ranch and has about 40,000 “high-bush” blueberry plants. The Jacks family practices “all natural” farming, which means there is no use of pesticides or other spray chemicals.
When the berries become ripe for the picking, the workers tent the entire 18 acres with nets to protect the crop from hungry birds. Birds love blueberries!
My son and I decided to pick 3 buckets of blueberries… I was thinking two pies, 1 batch of blueberry jam, and some fresh berries to enjoy with pancakes, cereal, and smoothies. My son and I headed out to the fields and began to pick which was quite easy and fun. It was very enjoyable to work along side of my son picking berries and talking about our travels. And yes, I have to admit; my son did throw blueberries at me! This was just one more wonderful moment on our fabulous road trip to bring us closer.
The Jacks family has built an adorable blueberry stand, which greets all visitors upon entering the farm. The stand also sells honey that is collected from the farm’s beehives, which pollinate the blueberry shrubs. The honey has a wonderful flavor that is subtlety reminiscent of blueberries, which I purchased, and I am looking forward to drizzling on hot biscuits with melting tabs of butter. The farm also produces blueberry jam and topping which I imagine would be fantastic on crepes with vanilla ice cream. And for those who don’t have the 15 minutes it takes to pick a bucket of berries, they sell packaged blueberries in pint size containers. The berries at Santa Barbara Blueberries are absolutely delicious. They are very sweet and large which burst with flavor when you pop them into your mouth. These berries are far superior to blueberries that I have purchased at the market.
Blueberries are indigenous to North America. The indigo blue berry grew wild in the plains of our midwestern and eastern seaboard states and thrives in cold winter environments. In fact, the blueberry was a staple in the Native American diet, which they called “star berries” due to the blossom’s five-pointed star shape. Native Americans used the blueberries for medicinal purposes, dried it for winter consumption, and baked the berries in a pudding called “sautauthig” (pronounced sawi-taw-teag). This pudding called for blueberries, cracked corn meal, and water which was then baked and was a favorite amongst the people. When the pilgrims arrived on the shores of America and befriended the Native Americans they were taught how to make this pudding. The pilgrims modified the recipe to include milk, sugar, and butter. Historians believe that this pudding was served at the first Thanksgiving feast.
When we arrived home I brought two buckets of blueberries to my friend Vicki who loves to bake pies. She very graciously baked two pies…one for me and one for her. These pie images are her most beautiful, and I must say, absolutely delicious pie! Hands down Vicki…this was the best pie I have ever eaten! Thanks Vic!
Vicki’s recipe is provided below. Enjoy!
Santa Barbara Blueberry Farm
@ Restoration Oaks Ranch
1980 US Highway 101
Gaviota, CA 93117
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM Monday through Saturday
During the Season (May through August)
Santa Barbara Blueberries has an online store at:
For more information about blueberries…
My Awesome Friend Vicki’s Blueberry Pie
Pâté Brisee (French style pastry for pie)
Makes one double crusted pie.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup (two sticks) cold insulted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4-1/2 cup ice water
1. In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter in and process for approximately 10 seconds, just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
2. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of ice water very slowly through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky (I find I always use the entire half cup). Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test the dough by squeezing a small amount together, it should hold together.
3. Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Pull the ends of wrap to the center with your hands, and press the dough into a flat circle with your fists to make a disk. Chill for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
Blueberry Pie Filling
5 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest from half of a lemon
1 tablespoon of cold butter
1. In a large bowl mix berries, lemon juice and lemon zest. In separate bowl combine flour, sugar and corn starch and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the berries and toss gently to coat the berries.
2. Roll out the bottom crust, line the pie plate and spoon the filling into the unbaked crust. Dot the berries with butter. Roll out top crust to cover pie. Fold edges under and flute. Be sure the edges are well sealed.
Glaze to brush the top of the pie
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons golden brown or dark brown sugar
3. Beat egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush top of pie with the egg wash. Sprinkle the white and brown sugar on top. Using a sharp knife cut five slits in a star form on the top crust to vent steam. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes more. The filling should be bubbling.