While spring may have been unusually cool for a longish stretch, sometime in later May and through June, the hot weather came in and stayed. Consequently, things are ripening earlier than usual. Strawberries, which are usually available in June, came in about on time, resting through that earlier cool weather. But cherries, which usually come in right around the beginning of July, ripened in mid-June. Blueberries & huckleberries, usually a mid-July to early August berry here, are ripening now, before the end of June. Possibly the first time I have ever seen on a local produce stand, boxes of locally grown strawberries, cherries, and blueberries side-by-side-by side. Even the produce folk were talking about how early the blueberries were. In the 50 years that we jointly remembered, none of us could remember blueberries ever ripening before July 4th. It’s one of the things that made those red, white, and blue desserts so difficult – strawberries or cherries might be ripe, but blueberries had to purchased from a grocery and came from further south.
Even our wild huckleberries (which are smaller, deeper purple and shiny) were ripening early – although just one here or there. I could see the birds going after them. I’d picked some to eat while walking past them…and heard other people doing the same, all commenting about how early they were. So I went down after the rain this morning to see if I could pick a more substantial quantity. There were not a lot, but about ¾ cup worth, one here and one there. I ate some as I picked, and the ripe ones were sweet and tart, just perfect. I still had almost a teacup full, enough for snack and cereal…or muffins if I can find a few more to get it up to a cup. I have a wonderful recipe for what I call dinner huckleberry muffins – they do have sugar, but are not sweet cake-y breakfast muffins; they just seem to go with dinner better.