July means Blueberries

Blueberries from Grandmother's farm in Hammonton, NJ

Blueberries from Grandmother's farm in Hammonton, NJ

Some places connect so strongly to certain times of year, that no matter where you are, a smell transports you in an instant.

July means Jersey blueberries, the plump, juicy ones, not the teeny wild ones from other regions. (Sorry, Michigan.) And if I’m talking about blueberries from New Jersey, you know I’m really talking about Hammonton- the Blueberry Capital of the world. I’m not making this up, there’s a sign on the way into town. It’s documented. Hammonton blueberries POWN all others.

Sign for pick your own blueberries, Hammonton, NJ

Sign for pick your own blueberries, Hammonton, NJ

My grandparents owned a pick your own blueberry farm in Hammonton for well over 50 years. Every summer of my childhood, I spent hot sticky summer days evading picking berries and trying to score the plum job of taking the money from returning pickers and making sure they returned their cans.

Cans waiting for berry pickers

Grandmother's cans waiting for berry pickers

If THAT was my duty, I could monitor the people flow from a perch in the big tree above the can table. I’d stick a book down the back of my shorts and clamber up, just a few branches too high to be seen from the ground. I delighted in leaping from my perch at mystified customers who just wanted to pay up and couldn’t find a person.

I’ll help you!” I’d exclaim, and swing down like Jane in a Tarzan movie. It worked out fine, except the summer I was reading “Gone With The Wind”. It was both heavy to get up the tree and highly dangerous to ground folks when it fell, which was often. Like I said, it was heavy.

The berry season varies based on normal farm conditions- rainfall, etc- but is usually just about end of June to end of July. Those are the weeks when just about any grocery store in America sports blueberries with a Hammonton label. Each time I see it, I swell with such pride, I may as well have picked them myself. (I’m actually a very slow berry picker, prone to eating them and fits of lying down in the rows.)

But in the aisle of the Giant back in Maryland, I sound like a berry professional. “These are Hammonton berries,” I say knowingly to innocent produce bystanders. I use the tone of discussing the bouquet of a fine wine. We’re connoisseurs of the berry, my newfound friend and I.

They nod back equally knowingly, while looking for the quickest escape route from the crazy stranger.

I guess the words “Hammonton Blueberry” wouldn’t mean much unless you’ve stood on the back of a packing shed, and seen rows and rows of blueberries in all directions. Unless you’ve heard the dis-spiriting clink of the fat berries echoing against the metal bottom of your can- and the triumphant sound of finally covering the bottom, which is silence. Just the hush of berries hitting each other, cushioning the fall.

Unless you know the ways of the Jersey Devil. How the Pine Barrens smell. The way cedar lakes are brown like iced tea, but great to swim in. Unless you’ve felt the silty sand of berry rows between your bare toes, a unique dirt I’ve never encountered before or since.

Left Field at Grandmother's House, Hammonton

Left Field at Grandmother's House, Hammonton

Then it means a lot. Grandmother’s blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry pie. Grandmother and Grandpop standing in the driveway waving goodbye, as we’d begin our three hour journey back to Maryland. When I hear the crunch of wheels on gravel, I still have to look around to make sure I’m not in my grandparent’s driveway.

Grandmother's Driveway

Grandmother's Driveway

I stand in the grocery store aisle, my hand on the pint, and I think, “Hammonton berries.” And it makes me happy.

Love you, Grandmother.

My wonderful husband took these pictures of the farm for me when my Grandmother passed away seven Julys ago. I’m so grateful to him for capturing it exactly as it was.

Angel Statue In Grandmother's Flowerbed

Angel Statue In Grandmother's Flowerbed

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Comments (6)

  1. Justine Monday - 05 / 07 / 2010 Reply
    My what lovely blueberries you have, Lindsay!! Won't you be a dear and share the muffin recipe? Or is that Top Secret?
  2. rockrollmama Monday - 05 / 07 / 2010 Reply
    You're so funny, Tiner! I almost put it, then I figured I'd better check with my Mumsy first, dahling. :) It's pretty standard, but amazingly awesome, as you well know. ;) I'll get clearance and edit it in. xoxo- holla at you later when it's a decent hour.
  3. Ri, The Music Savvy Mom Monday - 05 / 07 / 2010 Reply
    I SO love this. It was as much a joy to read as those gorgeous berries would be to eat! (And of course now I'll be heading out to Kroger to get some HAMMONDTON berries, and if they don't have them, I shall be sure to educate the grocer before I castigate him for the omission from his shelves!) Love you! xoxoxo
  4. princess stupidhead Monday - 05 / 07 / 2010 Reply
    Lovely!! I adore blueberries and these kinds of stories. .-= princess stupidhead´s last blog ..Were Proud Too- Of Our Suntans- That Is =-.
  5. rockrollmama Monday - 05 / 07 / 2010 Reply
    Thank you, Miss Ri! I hope all you encountered at Kroger paid proper homage to the foshizzle best berries in the land, and that you fifn't have to go all ninja on anyone. Love you too.:) xoxo Princess Stupidhead! First of all, MAN I love your name. It would be extremely fun to say to oneself in the mirror with Drop Dead Fred intonation. Thank you so much for reading my story, and hanging out! I adored your holiday story.
  6. B Jas Tuesday - 20 / 07 / 2010 Reply
    Wow! This is one FUN & JAZZY blog full of good stuff. Gotta have kickin bass everywhere you go! Rock on.

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