We’ve all seen blueberries in the grocery store, those plump, dark little gems usually housed in a square, pint-sized box or basket. They’re unique in that they are the only naturally blue (well, blue-ish) food I can think of. With their mostly sweet, kind of-tart, kind of sour flavor they’ve always been the perfect accompaniment to other fruits. They’re also my top choice for adding to scones. I even like them frozen, as a cool, healthy snack right from the freezer. But I always thought blueberries were just a “seen-one-seen-them-all” fruit. That is, until I became an innkeeper at Domaine Madeleine.
In the neatly planted rows nestled in the front part of the grounds (what we call “the farm”), there are not one, not two, but six varieties of blueberries ripening at this very moment. Some varieties are riper than others, as each has a somewhat different growing season. While each individual crop may last about four weeks, when thoughtfully planted, fresh blueberries of some sort are available for ten weeks, from Early July to late September, making our summer season berry, berry exciting.
With names like Spartan, Blueray, and Elliott one begins to appreciate the subtle and sometimes not so subtle variations in taste and appearance. Capable of growing to the size of a large grape, Bluerays have a classic, mild flavor. Spartans on the other hand are small, but pack a powerfully tart punch. This culinary palette inspires us to develop creative uses like pairings, baking, juicing, and garnishing.
For example, we like to serve sliced strawberries with a variety of blueberries, the tart flavor complimenting the sweet strawberries. We’ve discovered Bluecrops hold up well in baking, providing a delightfully juicy oasis within a warm, crumbly scone. And since Darrows often need to be seen to be believed, they garnish some of our dishes and are the perfect story-starter to introduce guests to our many blueberry varieties.
The secret life of blueberries is only one agricultural surprise I’ve discovered since coming to Domaine Madeleine. I haven’t even begun to delve into learning about our numerous pears, plums, or apples. But that’s what makes every day fun and interesting, for both me and our guests who have sought out Olympic Peninsula lodging. There’s always something more to discover. What lies around the bend in the path? What new vista awaits, if only I take a few more steps? Everywhere I turn enlightenment beckons me. Look closer. Slow down. Just listen. What will YOU discover?