Berries From Heaven
The couple farms organically (and solar-electrically), growing asparagus in springtime, keeping honeybees to pollinate the blueberry bushes, and raising grass-fed lamb and beef on the remaining acres. It makes for a tidy, self-supporting system: The sheep and cows help fertilize the depleted soil and graze down the grass between the bushes.
And it pays off—in flavor. "There's a theory that organic fruits taste better because the plant has to muster its own defenses," says Reade. These same natural defenses are key to blueberries' clout among nutritionists. A fruit (or leaf) that's exposed to sunshine creates antioxidants to protect the plant's DNA from damage during photosynthesis, and the antioxidants benefit whoever eats the fruit. They show up, sunburnlike, as pigment, so a good rule of thumb is: The more colorful the fruit, the more healthful it's likely to be.
No wonder blueberries have been all the rage of late; at last we've found a super-good-for-you food that also tastes fantastic, whether eaten fresh or baked into sauces, cobblers, and pies. And blueberries are easy to use. Susan Spungen, a self-described "lazy cook" who created the recipes on these pages, says, "You don't have to peel or cut them, so they lend themselves to impromptu summer baking."
But culinary fads don't mean much to a farmer. The bushes at Neptune Farm keep on cycling through their ancient schedule: turning crimson in fall, blossoming each spring, growing heavy with fruit as June rolls by.
For Reade and McDermott, summer is a time less for exuberance than exhaustion. "It's arduous," says Reade of the blueberry harvest. But just when she thinks she's had enough, she pops into her mouth a swollen-ripe, dusky-dark, sweet and fragrant berry, and finds it's not so hard to carry on after all.