There is an eager anticipation each spring for the arrival of dusky violet-gray blueberries in our garden. In early February when the woody stems begin to spring forth with new life of pale green leaves, it causes us to stop and take notice. In the fall and winter months they are nothing more than scraggly stems with barely a leaf, not particularly inspiring. But once the leaves appear, before you know it, the bushes burst forth with bell shaped blossoms, tinged a soft green flushed with rose pink. In March the fruit has set on, firm green jewels cloistered together, By April the green clusters have turned to a blue violet, almost like spring lilacs. Each berry is topped with a neat little crown, like that of a five-pointed star; they bring a promise of a pleasing burst of wine colored juice that puts the amethyst to shame. A foragers’ fruit, it is a perfect little package of juicy delight when plucked at that just right moment of ripeness. The slightly tart and gentle sweetness seduces one to dream of a soft sugar dusted crust blanketing a pool of the inky blue fruit. When our two small, slightly scraggly blueberry bushes finally announce their readiness it is an exciting day indeed. One we even share with dinner guests, who more times than not don’t seem to share our enthusiasm. But our exuberance over the harvest does give a chuckle or two.
The home for these bushes has been two old weathered terracotta pots that used to house lemon trees. On most days throughout the year they have morning and afternoon sun and seem to like being nestled among the lavender and white iceberg roses, which this year seem to be overshadowing them a bit. The first year of harvest, we only managed to gather a handful, barely enough to fit in a pocket. This is due to some finches that frequent a nearby olive tree, they were waiting for the berries as much as we were. By the second year we wised up and covered the bushes with netting so as to detour them. It worked relatively well, although I think one finch in particular may have outsmarted the netting somewhat and managed to snatch a berry here and there. This year our crop (if you can call it a crop) was the most yet. I would venture to say the total amount of berries harvested came to about 4 cups, barely enough for a pie but enough for a weeks’ worth of topping on yogurt and cereal. I decided to splurge with two cups and make a delicious blueberry compote. A spoonful or two over pancakes, tucked into a crepe or even served alongside a simple butter cake is enough to cause a brief moment of pause and give thanks for all those little bushes gave. And listen to the finches sing a song of lament over not sharing in our harvest. Not too sad about that one.
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
2 strips of fresh lemon zest
Juice from ½ of the lemon
2 cups fresh blueberries (you can also use frozen)
Combine water, sugar and lemon zest in a medium sized skillet over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in half of the blueberries and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until blueberries begin to burst, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and remaining blueberries. Remove lemon zest and discard. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be kept in an airtight container refrigerated for 1 week. Makes 2 cups