Mid-June normally is high time for blueberries in the Yellowhammer State, peaking with the annual Alabama Blueberry Festival in Brewton, set this year for Saturday, June 17.
The rabbiteye variety—native to south Alabama, south Georgia and the Florida panhandle—is one of three types grown commercially here.
Blueberry season is relatively short, starting in late May and running through early July in the southern part of the state, and through late July upstate. Locally harvested berries can be found on farm stands and markets, in select groceries, and at U-pick farms around Alabama.
But this year, the sweet indigo orbs are in shorter supply, one of several spring and early-summer fruits devastated by the hard freeze that hit Alabama in mid-March after bushes had begun to bloom. (The freeze was tough on strawberries, blackberries, and early peaches, too.)
Popular U-pick operations like Bagwell Blueberry Farm in Cullman reported delayed openings due to the damage. Lyon Blueberry Farm in Wilsonville and Mims Blueberry Farm in Prattville say they won’t open at all this year.
“Some blueberries survived the freeze!” Barber Berry Farm in Millbrook announces on its website. But that’s only enough to open one day, also June 17.
But whether abundant or scarce, the annual appearance of Alabama blueberries is a cause for celebration. Few fruits are easier to bake with or blend into desserts, cook with meats, and especially eat straight from a bowl.
Expect an abundance at the Alabama Blueberry Festival in Brewton’s Jennings Park from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on June 17. Ice cream, cobbler, and crunch made with blueberries are festival favorites. Both picked berries and bushes to plant at home also are available.
Need a break from blueberries while in Brewton? Check out the arts and crafts, antique and classic cars, children’s play area, and live entertainment at the fest.
Once you buy your Bama berries, they’ll stay good for 10-14 days if you take proper care. Store them in a refrigerator in a covered container. Don’t wash any berry until you’re ready to use it.
They freeze well, too. Start the blueberries in a single layer (they won’t clump), and store in a freezer container once hard. When ready to use, run cool water over them to thaw.
If you want to pick your own, all is not lost. Here are some of the U-pick farms that are open this year. Most also sell bulk containers they’ve harvested. Given spotty harvests this year and the ever-present possibility of rain, call ahead before going. All of these farms provide updates on their Facebook pages, as well.
If you’re new to berry picking, choose those that are deep blue. Any that are red or reddish are not ready. Blueberries do not ripen more once picked, so select those ready to eat.
Poppy’s and Patty’s (Florala)
The freeze killed early-blooming varieties. U-picks for later bloomers started Memorial Day weekend. But availability was day-to-day in early June, and ripe berries sometimes ran out in the morning.
Address: 2143 Alabama 54 (at the 4-mile marker; 36442)
Phone: (334) 300-8870
Lang’s Blueberry Farm (Coker)
Open when blueberries are available, best times for the U-pick are early morning or late afternoon before dusk. Yields are down, and the operation shut down briefly in early June when the initial ripe berries were picked over.
Address: 14727 Bel Aire Estates (off U.S. 82; 35452)
Phone: (205) 339-7814
Holmestead Farm (Waldo)
Look for announcements about U-pick days on this 95-acre farm and country store in the foothills of Talladega National Forest in Clay County. The berry farm, which follows organic practices, is open Wednesday – Saturday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Address: 6582 Clay County Road 7 (35160)
Wadsworth Farms (Cropwell)
Rabbiteye blueberries are the specialty at this fourth-generation family farm about five miles south of Pell City. They have grown blueberries since 1987 but the farm has been producing crops since 1911. The state has designated the property a Century and Heritage Farm. It’s open seven days, from sunup to sundown.
Address: 330 Wadsworth Road (35054)
Our Happy Place Blueberry Farm (Lacey Springs)
Family-owned, Our Happy Place opened its U-pick in mid-June. Sign up on the webpage for the farm’s newsletter or monitor social media for announced picking days, generally Tuesdays or Thursdays, from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Check with the farm first in case it’s raining.
Address: 196 Wiljoy Road (35754)
Phone: (256) 261-8193