By Laura Kurella

Cadillac News

Blueberry season is well underway in northwest Michigan, and Cadillac is especially fortunate to have a small U-Pick farm that offers a full seven different varieties of blueberries that can be picked, if the weather works in our favor, until nearly Labor Day according to Derek Larrance, co-owner of the Double L Farms located on South 31 Road in Cadillac.

“We got into the berry business (Double L also offers raspberries) because my father-in-law thought we should make use of the property we had in a way that might also help us save for our daughter Mackenzie’s college fund.”

In 1994, Larrance and his wife, Becky, purchased 10 acres of land from Becky’s maternal grandfather, Richard Watson. “By the time, Mackenzie was in middle school, and my father-in-law, Richard Lucas, thought we should do something with it to help us save money because he thought that having this much property and not doing something with it was foolish. Since he is a retired science teacher, my father-in-law did some agriculture research and found that blueberries thrive in the sandy, acidic soil we have. Since half of the property was covered with scotch pine that was planted in the 1950s by Becky’s grandfather, it created the perfect environment for a blueberry farm, so that is the direction we decided to take.”

Working to develop the property to accommodate a blueberry farm, in 2005 the scotch pines were cut and chipped, and their stumps were pushed to the edge of the field to create natural fencing.

“The field was then cultivated, and in 2007, our first bushes found their new home, as did a wire fence with electric to help deter deer and bear from helping themselves to our fruit.”

As the blueberry farm grew and flourished, daughter Mackenzie did, too.

“Mackenzie studied dance at Interlochen Arts Academy, and then went on to attend the University of Michigan,” her proud father said. “She graduated with a Bachelor of Theater Arts in the spring of this year, 2020, and that field of blueberries did just what her maternal grandfather wanted it to do, and more, because it was able to help his granddaughter, Mackenzie, attend a fine arts school and graduate from a fine Michigan college, too.”

The Larrances also have a son they adopted from Romania in 2000 that has the challenge of dealing with Autistic Spectrum disorder.

“Corbin has become one of our biggest sources of happiness. He has made all of us better people. Corbin is also highly productive, and helps with all aspects of our farm, which is awesome.”

With blueberry season in full swing, Larrance said that all seven varieties of blueberries are ripening, and ready for the picking. “We have Blue Ray, Nelson, Meader, Duke, Patriot, Blue Crop, and Elliot varieties,” he said, “and with our daughter Mackenzie marrying her high school sweetheart, Chandlar Gabara, this October, we’re hoping that our berries will come through one more time for her, by blessing us with a productive berry-picking season this year, too.”

(FYI: Visitors who ask will get treated to a cute story on how this farm got its name.)

Blueberries are not only good, they are good for our brain health, too. Studies are showing that blueberry-supplemented diets not only help reduce risk of cancers, but also reduce age-related cognitive decline.

“The addition of an easily attainable amount of blueberries — one cup a day — may be an overall positive diet and lifestyle strategy for older adults,” said Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Ph.D., a USDA Staff Scientist in the Laboratory of Neuroscience and Aging, USDA-ARS, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, and one of the study’s lead investigators.

Nothing beats a fresh-picked Michigan blueberry. Be sure to get some before this beautiful blue season is gone.

Here now are some cool ways to experience a little blue heaven of your own —ENJOY.

Blueberry Blizzard Pie

Yield: 8 servings

CRUST

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

5 to 6 tablespoons butter, melted

FILLING

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

8-ounces Neufchatel cheese

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick cooking spray.

For crust: In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter, stirring until moistened. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, press mixture into bottom and up sides of prepared pan.

Bake 7 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

For filling: In a small saucepan, stir together blueberries, 1/4 cup water, sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until mixture begins to thicken and berries begin to burst, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in zest. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, and let cool 10 minutes. Lightly cover, and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 1 hour.

In a large bowl, add cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add cream and vanilla; beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in blueberry mixture (do not stir). Spoon in prepared crust, spreading gently to edges. Lightly cover, and freeze until firm. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.

Blueberry Almond Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups cooked chicken, chopped

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup scallions, chopped

8 lettuce leaves

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced and toasted

In a bowl, combine yogurt, basil, salt, and pepper until blended. Add chicken, blueberries, celery, and scallions and toss until evenly coated. Arrange lettuce leaves on serving platter and top with chicken mixture, dividing evenly between lettuce leaves. Top with almonds and serve.

Three Ingredient Blueberry Ice Cream

2 frozen bananas (Chop and peel bananas before freezing. Freeze for at least 2 hours)

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 splash pure vanilla extract

Add bananas and blueberries into a powerful blender or food processor. Add vanilla and process or blend until creamy. Be sure to scrape down the bowl or pitcher to make sure all the ingredients fully blend in for ultimate creaminess.

Scoop into bowls or cones.

Yield: 2 servings