Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Eggers Berries

When June arrives I begin watching the corner of Penn Ave and Rt. 8 for this sign:
In my opinion the sweetest, most flavorful of blueberries, currants, and raspberries are to be found here.
Right before you get to the lane that leads to the Eggers' property Penn Ave. becomes Penn Road.  It horseshoes it's way around a wide swath of the countryside and right before it comes back out on Rt. 8 again our lane intersects with it.  Driving around that horseshoe you would never know that there's a near secret hidden in the center of it.  From all sides it looks like the land rises to a peak.  But it doesn't.  Hidden within is a magical dell.

When you arrive at Eggers to pick you first drive down a grassy path that opens out on a family produce garden and rows of black and red currants and raspberries.  Mrs. Eggers greets you, fits you out with berry buckets and calls for Mr. Eggers.  You pile in the ancient four wheel drive SUV and Mr. Eggers chauffeurs you on a short but intense ride to the blueberry patch.  You roll past the rows of currants and raspberries, drive around the large storage shed, and stop at the crest of a precipitous green tunnel.  Here Mr. Eggers pauses to put the SUV in 4 wheel drive while you contemplate the rutted, washed out dirt lane before you and try to calculate if the trees are strong enough to hold the SUV should it slide over the edge of the ravine on your side.  But Mr Eggers and his trusty vehicle are old hands at this and slowly navigate down the green lit path with nary a breathless moment for the passengers.  As you near the end of the leafy tunnel you see bright light before you.  At the bottom Mr. Eggers pauses again to put the SUV back in regular drive and as you head into the sunlight, the trees give way to a sunny, fertile dell filled with rows of blueberry bushes and edged with the leafy fronds of asparagus.  Dodd Creek runs through the property and depending on where the picking is that day Mr Eggers may ford through the creek.

To me, the Egger's property is as close to magical as you can get.  It's hidden location containing a bounty of berries seems like something from the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkein or C.S. Lewis.  The Eggers have been stewarding this land for twenty years, going beyond simple soil testing and having the soil assayed through a mining outfit.  With this assay the Eggers have not only corrected the soil for acidity or alkalinity, but have added amendments to correct the soil right down to trace metals that it's lacking.  The results are healthy shrubs producing the best berries without the use of any pesticides, chemical or organic.

Last Friday I picked 8 quarts of these babies

Followed on Saturday by 5 pounds each of these
Black and red currants.
The raspberries are just coming in and I expect to be going back for them later this week.  Until then I will be busy preserving the berry goodness we have waiting.

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