It’ s a fact that blueberries are good for your health. According to the Highbush Blueberry Council: “From research labs all across the country and the world, there is growing evidence that blueberries are an important part of a healthy diet.” That’ s because they contain antioxidants, which are thought to protect the body against free radicals and the chronic diseases associated with the aging process. Data from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging show “blueberries are among the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity.”
Picking blueberries also brings out the best in families. Here’ s the evidence.
Every year when I pick blueberries at Beech Hill Preserve in Rockport, I observe parents and kids not just getting their fingers and tongues stained blue, but thoroughly engaging with one another as they pursue this timeless pastime. Cries of joy can be heard as children stumble upon particularly rich patches of the fruit. Words of praise, and plenty of hugs are lavished by parents on kids bearing boxes of berries they’ ve picked — tiny leaves, twigs and all.
I’ ve also noted the lasting influence of author Robert McCloskey, whose 1948 book, “Blueberries for Sal,” I’ ve heard mentioned by parents and children alike three out of four times during Beech Hill blueberry-picking outings. The book tells the story of a bear cub and its mother picking blueberries on a hillside at the same time a girl called Sal and her mom are engaged in the same pursuit.
The first time I heard this book mentioned on Beech Hill, a mother comforted her son — who was sad at the thought of finishing blueberry picking for the day — by saying “Don’ t worry, sweetie. We can go home and read ‘ Blueberries for Sal’ after this.”
The second time — a year later — a child begged his mother to read the book after blueberry picking, “like we always do,” he said. I had to wonder if it was the same boy a year older.
The third time, a girl actually had the book in hand during the blueberry picking process. The battered book looked as if it had been toted along on more than one summer outing.
So, pack up your copy of McCloskey’ s book and go picking on Beech Hill Preserve. Managed by Coastal Mountains Land Trust, the preserve invites the public to pick certified organic blueberries for a modest price from 8 a.m. to noon today and Sunday. On Aug. 8 and 9, the picking will be free.