The Seaside Farmers Market offers the delicious super fruit, in season now By Wendy O. Dixon
There’s nothing better than juicy, sweet blueberries fresh off the bush. The delicious healthy treat is eagerly anticipated each May and June, as local farmer Glen Tison knows. Likewise, he looks forward to heading back to the Seaside Farmers Market to show off his family’s blueberries.
“Selling at the market is the fun part to me. We get to see so many friends and new folks too,” he says. “I like to see the kids try our blueberries and want more. So many people have never even tried them. It is surprising to me since I grew up eating the wild varieties that grew in the woods where the orchard is now.”
The Tison family farm, a u-pick farm at 1407 North Waukesha Street in Bonifay, opened in the 1980s when Glen’s parents, Jack and Hazel Tison, opened their blueberry patches to customers who wanted pesticide-free berries. If you venture out to Bonifay to pick your own berries, Tison advises coming in the morning hours. “It’s best to come early and pick,” he says. “You can pick all day, it just gets awful hot.”
Unlike going into the woods and fighting weeds and bugs, the Tison farm has neat rows of bushes, making it an easy and pleasant experience even for kids. “(Our berries) are usually larger and easier to find,” he says. “We planted several hundred new plants this year. We are trying some new varieties, though they won’t make any fruit until next year or the following year.”
Tison loves to hear people say that his blueberries are the best they’ve ever tasted. “That seems to make some of the long hard parts of the year seem worth it,” he says.
As every year, wild bumblebees were put in place to pollinate the berry blooms, which is important to a good crop. “We had a colony move into an old hive late last year, so we fed them all fall and winter,” he says. “So many pests bother bees these days like hive beetles, bee mites, and fire ants, among other problems. I tried cinnamon around the hive to keep the fire ants out. It may have worked. Dad (Jack) has always kept a few bees as long as I can remember. He still loves it. I enjoy taking care of the bees, too.”
Starting in May, Tison loads his truck and heads to the Seaside Farmers Market, where customers can buy pints, quarts or gallons. With a quick wash, the berries are ready to enjoy. “They’re loaded with anti-oxidants, and have a lot of fiber,” he says. “People can buy gallons and freeze them, which is the cheapest way to buy them and keep them fresh all year.”
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Try Hazel’s Blueberry Crisp
1 ½ stick oleo or butter (separated)
4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
(or 3 tablespoons flour)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup pecans
In a 9”x13” baking pan, melt half stick of oleo (or butter). Add blueberries. Top with sugar and cornstarch or flour. Sprinkle with cold water.
In mixing bowl or blender, blend cake mix, pecans and 1 stick oleo. Spread over blueberries and bake at 350˚ until brown and bubbling (30 – 40 minutes). Serve warm with whipped topping.