Pickers head for the hills as Southcentral blueberry season begins
As the fireweed climbs to the top of the stalk, it signals the end of summer and more importantly, the beginning of blueberry season.
Arctic Valley is Anchorage’s not-so-secret hot spot since the ski area is just a short drive from town.
“We got up here and everyone was berry picking,” said Amy Weaver. “We saw people with huge baskets on their back and we thought this is the spot.”
Nancy Steely and her friends grabbed their Ziploc bags and sawed-off milk jugs and took advantage of a break in the rain.
“Being out in the mountains, being with my friends to talk and the produce you get at the end,” Steely listed off her favorite parts of the day.
With the cooler, wet summer weather, the season is a little slower to get started this year but the berries are looking pretty good.
“I’ve noticed once I put them in here and they were rolling around some times the backsides are still green,” said Carla Krupa.
This time of year there’s more than just a blueberry bounty to be had though. From currants to cranberries, watermelon berries and the little known serviceberries, the Alaska Botanical Gardens has it all.
Education specialist Patrick Ryan said novice pickers looking for different varieties need to do their homework; there are poisonous berries that look similar to edible ones.
Ryan recommends a simple taste test before diving in.
“Touching a food sample to your lips. If you don’t get a buzzing or bitter taste, you should wait in between. If you’re unsure you should find someone knowledgeable to go out with if it’s your first time,” he explained.
Back in the hills, Steely has big plans for her haul.
“Make blueberry jam and blueberry muffins and blueberry pancakes,” she listed off.
For Weaver, berry picking is an easy way to enjoy fruit all year long.
“Living in Alaska you have to take advantage of what the land offers from berry picking to fishing to hunting,” she said.