July 16, 2014
As soon as the blueberry hits my taste buds, I’m transported back in time—a time of summer vacation, my grandparents’ voices, an uncle’s cottage on the river, the smell of fragrant bushes in the hot sun and a burst of flavor on my tongue. It happens every time I eat blueberries—not strawberries or bananas or any other fruit. The blueberry alone is my own personal time machine.
From the time I was a little kid, my grandparents would take me, my sisters and one of my cousins to my Uncle Art’s cottage on the Tittabawassee River in Gladwin, Michigan, for a week or so every summer. Every year, he and my Aunt Marie would open up their cottage and their hearts to us. Those were wonderful times—swimming, boating, fishing, campfires and just spending time with them and my grandparents.
Uncle Art was a character. I think he could catch, hunt, trap or grow pretty much anything. I’m guessing he could have lived off the land his whole life if he wanted. He had a huge garden where I learned how potatoes grow, what beans were ripe for picking and how good tomatoes are right off the vine. And he taught me about blueberries.
We’d drive out a dusty road, being wary of deer, and come to blueberry bushes where we’d fill our buckets. I got my very first bee sting while picking blueberries—but after a few tears, some Absorbine Jr. and a hug, I was ready to go again.
I didn’t know anything about blueberries at the time other than that they were delicious. I didn’t know there are different varieties or that Michigan is the nation’s lead producer. I just knew that I couldn’t wait to get back to my Aunt Marie’s kitchen where we’d sit at the Formica table eating them drenched in cream out of white milk glass bowls.
July is National Blueberry Month so it’s the perfect time to grab a pint and enjoy the summer sweetness. Plus, they’re really, really good for you.
Blueberries are also really good for Michigan. Harvests annually contribute more than $118.5 million to the state’s economy. And, what’s important to Michigan, is also important to MSU. For more than 50 years, MSU has been key to developing new varieties of the fruit. Check out the beautiful MSUToday feature, Building a Better Blueberry to learn more about MSU’s vital role in the industry.
James Hancock, an AgBioResearch scientist and professor of horticulture, is featured in the story. He developed three of the world’s most widely planted Northern Highbush blueberry varieties along with several other successful cultivars throughout his three decades at MSU. He’s pretty much a blueberry rock star. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: A New Breed, to read in his own words how he came to develop them.
I still find it kind of fascinating how one little berry can trigger so many emotions and memories for me. I love how just one bite can make it seem like I was with my grandparents yesterday. It’s been many years now since they’ve been gone and I miss them dearly, but those memories are inscribed on my heart and soul and part of my identity.
RCAH senior Nicole DiMichele, who is also majoring in social work, tapped into her identity during her study abroad trip to Italy. Although she grew up with her heritage being an important part of her life, being able to visit the country, learn the language and experience the culture was a life-changing experience. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Connecting With My Identity, to learn about her trip.
Whether the trigger is a taste on the tongue, or a family language rolling off of it, memories, family and heritage are an important part of life. They ground, direct, teach and inspire us. They make us who we are.