Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Blueberries for Sal

July is National Blueberry Month!

If any fruit deserves its own special month of honorable recognition, this little blue beauty certainly does. Native to North America, blueberries are grown in 35 out of the 50 states which means that the United States supplies roughly 95% of the entire world's crop!  With flavors ranging from puckery tart to mildly sweet, blueberries are in their prime in the month of July.  And as they are full of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, they definitely make the healthy food list.

My little darling Emmy has an aversion to certain textures in food and blueberries are not often her fruit of choice.  However, when given the opportunity to pick her own, Emmy is much more likely to try new fruits. Fortunately for us, there are many farms in our area that offer pick-your-own so blueberry picking is one of our summer traditions.  
Before Emmy and I head out to our favorite local farm (Cider Hill Farm) to pick our own blueberries, we read Robert McCloskey's book Blueberries for Sal. This story is a classic as it has been enjoyed by generations of children and is still popular today. The endearing illustrations, rendered in dark blue ink reminiscent of the stain made by blueberries, was recognized with a Caldecott Honor in 1949.
McCloskey tells two stories side-by-side in this book, one of a little girl named Sal and her mother, who are picking wild blueberries to can for the winter, and another of a little bear cub and his mother, who are eating wild blueberries to prepare for winter hibernation. Sal's and Little Bear's paths eventually cross and then each follows the wrong mother around Blueberry Hill.  When I share this book with Emmy, her favorite part of the story is always the sound that the berries make when they hit Sal's small tin bucket "kuplink, kuplnak, kuplunk!" This sound is what makes Little Bear's mother aware that her bear cub is not behind her.  


Something else that I enjoy about this story is its old fashioned concepts.  Emmy and I talked at length about the end papers of the book that showed a 1940's kitchen and the process of canning fruit.  I know that there are those that continue the tradition of canning in their home, but it is not something that is recognizable in Emmy's or my life.  
After reading the story, Emmy and I were definitely craving a fresh pail of blueberries of our own so off we went to the farm on a very hot day!  
Emmy was thrilled with the picking, but sad that the bucket we received at the farm didn't make the same sound as Sal's tin bucket.  She did eat quite a few berries right off of the bush, but there was no convincing her that this should be a favorite fruit.  As for me, I ate many more berries than what I added to the bucket!  Overall, the pick-your-own experience was a great time for both us and one that we will repeat.

When Emmy was younger, we very much enjoyed watching many of our favorite picture books come to life through the Scholastic Video Collection.  If you have the opportunity, look for the DVD Make Way for Ducklings...and More Robert McCloskey Stories.  Included are the stories Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder, Lentil and Burt Dow, Deep Water Man.  Although not animated as the other stories in the DVD series, the narration and music makes it a nice addition to the classic McCloskey stories.  

Emmy and I are such HUGE fans of Robert McCloskey and we hope that his post inspires others to pick up his books and read them.  We have a wonderful treasury of McCloskey classics titled Make Way for McCloskey - A Robert McCloskey Treasury that has 8 complete stories, including Blueberries for Sal, with an introduction by Leonard S. Marcus as well as photographs and original drawings by the author.

If you would like more of McCloskey, then check out our review of another one of his classics Make Way for Ducklings.  Also, look for One Morning in Maine which is considered to be a sequel to Blueberries for Sal.

To continue to inspire all things blueberry, Emmy and I would also recommend the following books:

Blueberry Mouse by Alice Low

More Blueberries by Susan Musgrave

Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow

And if you have any blueberries left after picking, there are many delicious treats that can be made, but since Emmy loves putting syrup on her pancakes and waffles (of course freshly picked blueberries can be added to these as well), I thought we might try this simple recipe for Blueberry Syrup!

1/2 cup sugar                      1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup     1 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice                2 cups of blueberries

Stir together all ingredients in a large microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on full power 5 minutes. Stir and serve warm.  

Blueberry Deliciousness!

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