Blue was the color of the day – from blueberry wine to a blueberry bake-off to bluegrass music – at Terhune Orchards’ Blueberry Bash over the weekend.
The annual event, held at the farm on Cold Soil Road, Lawrence Township, celebrates the plump little berry. And maybe it was a coincidence, but July 8 was National Blueberry Day.
New Jersey is one of the nation’s top six producers of blueberries and it is the top crop in terms of production value in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year’s blueberry crop was valued at nearly $84 million.
But back to the Blueberry Bash, which drew visitors from as far away as Lakewood, Somerset and Hillsborough.
“We came because we want to have fun and we wanted to have a family outing in a healthy, positive way,” said Isaac Lefkowitz, who lives in Lakewood.
It was also a chance for his three young children to learn about fruit and “how things grow,” Lefkowitz asid. He wanted to show his children that food comes from “someplace else” – not the local grocery store.
“It’s a whole complicated system behind the food we eat. It’s fun to come here and learn about things,” he said as he watched his children, ages 3, 6, and 8, pick blueberries off the bushes and fill a bucket he was carrying.
The Blueberry Bash was a family affair for Jason Bradley of Hillsborough, who brought his wife and daughter to the farm. He was joined by his mother-in-law, who lives in Somerset.
While blueberries were the attraction for Bradley and his wife, it was the toe-tapping bluegrass music played by the Barn Cats and Friend that caught 18-month-old Brighton Bradley’s attention.
Under the watchful eye of her grandmother, Bonnie Martin, young Brighton swayed to the music, only a few feet away from the Barn Cats. The local bluegrass band included a guitar, a bass guitar, a mandolin and a violin.
The Barn Cats played traditional bluegrass tunes and bluegrass interpretations of songs that ranged from Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” to Neil Young’s “Long May You Run” and the traditional “Midnight Special.”
“The music is a nice touch,” Martin said.
But perhaps the highlight of the Blueberry Bash was the Blueberry Bake-Off – a contest open to anyone who wanted to bring baked goods that featured lots of blueberries. The entries ranged from tarts, large and small, to small hand pies and a blueberry pancake, topped with maple icing.
Terhune Orchards co-owner Pam Mount and her granddaughter, Maya Mount Hanewald, took on the enviable task of taste-testing and judging the blueberry entries.
“We know blueberries,” Mount said, glancing at her granddaughter.
Sampling a large blueberry frangipane tart, Mount said, “It’s very ‘blueberry.’ It’s not too complicated.”
Nibbling a small blueberry hand pie, Maya’s reaction was, “This is good.”
“We are down to the best blueberry cooks in town,” Mount said, as she and Maya continued to taste-test the entries.
In the end, the winner was the blueberry frangipane tart, followed in second place by the blueberry hand pies and the third-place finisher, a miniature blueberry custard tart with blueberry compote.
Tova Meyer, whose blueberry frangipane tart took top honors, was thrilled.
“I did not expect to win. I was very surprised,” said Meyer, who added that she was impressed by the other bake-off entries.
Meyer, who lives in West Windsor, said she loves to bake. She bakes for enjoyment, but winning the contest provided her with a sense of motivation and validation.
Besides, Meyer said, the bake-off gave her a chance to try out her new cookware “toy” – a removable-bottom tart pan.
Disha Hegde, whose entry was the miniature blueberry custard tart with blueberry compote, also was pleased the judges considered her entry to be worthy of an award.
Hegde entered the contest on a whim, after visiting Terhune Orchards to go blueberry picking earlier in the week. Her family stops at Terhune Orchards from time to time to pick blueberries.
“I saw the (contest) sign in the farm store. I thought, ‘We just picked some fresh blueberries. I’ll do it,’ ” said the Plainsboro resident.
Hegde, who attends the University of Illinois, said she bakes for her friends at school when they have a birthday, and when she just wants to take a study break.