By Raiza Giorgi
Local blueberry grower Ed Seaman expects the next several years of his crop to be fruitful after this rain season, which dropped more than 25 inches on his farm just south of Buellton.
Seaman is the farmer at Santa Barbara Blueberries and founder of the Wild Farmlands Foundation, which educates people on the importance of small family farms and local agriculture.
“We have happy plants, and even if we don’t get the rain we got this year next year, it will still benefit us in the long run because the rain flushed the salts in the root zone away,” Seaman said.
After several years of drought, Seaman said, salts build up in the root zone of the plants and can make it difficult to absorb nutrients into the plant system. The rain washes away salt build-up, which allow the plants to thrive, he added.
“Even with irrigation it doesn’t have the same impact as a great rain can. The plants have looked decent over the past several years, but already since the rain I can tell the difference in the plants,” Seaman said.
Blueberry season is expected to start mid-May, and Seaman uses social media and newsletters to announce when his farm will be open.
Santa Barbara Blueberries has roughly 32,000 healthy, pesticide-free blueberry plants of varying ages that they open up to U-pick customers and to local produce markets in season. They also offer blueberry jams and preserves, pesticide-free raspberries, blackberries, cantaloupes, watermelons, wild honey, and other products grown on the ranch as they are available. Their “True Blue” members get first access to a private picking event, and subscribers to the newsletter will be invited to another private picking event.
“We are really excited for our raspberry and blackberry crops this year too, as the rain only benefits them as well,” Seaman said.
The raspberry and blackberry crops usually produce between summer and fall when the heat ripens them. Seaman said once the berries become ripe and are picked, the plants keep producing fruit until the end of the season, usually in October.
“Some of my best memories growing up are picking berries. I think every kid should have those memories, which is why we love the U-pick concept where kids can learn all about agriculture,” Seaman added.
Seaman’s Wild Farmlands Foundation is dedicated to supporting and promoting the small farms and ranches that grow fresh foods and maintain the health of the land for future generations. Small farms worldwide accommodate and preserve wildlife, plant life and the environment while they provide premium quality foods to local communities.
“Small-scale farmers are the most important contributors to the local foodshed. Not only do they grow most of the local food, they have practical hands-on experience and localized knowledge of the land, the weather and the foods that are grown and could be grown,” he said.
Wild Farmlands hosts several events throughout the year, including “toad hikes” in the spring/summer and “tarantula hikes” in the fall. Log onto www.wildfarmlands.org to learn more.
For more information, follow @SantaBarbaraBlueberries on social media or log onto www.santabarbarablueberries.com.
LEMON RASPBERRY MUFFINS
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white whole-wheat flour, or whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) raspberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 12 large (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon in long strips. Combine the zest and sugar in a food processor; pulse until the zest is very finely chopped into the sugar. Add buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla and pulse until blended.
Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture and fold until almost blended. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.
Bake the muffins until the edges and tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve warm.
- Wrap each in plastic and freeze in a freezer bag for up to 1 month. To reheat, remove plastic, wrap muffin in a paper towel and microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds.
- No buttermilk? Mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice into 1 cup milk.
- White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole wheat. Whole-wheat pastry flour can be used as a substitute here. Both can be found in the natural-foods section of the supermarket or online from King Arthur Flour at bakerscatalogue.com.