Red, White and Blueberries
Look no farther than Gibsonville to find your Blueberry Thrill
By Annie Ferguson
Photographs by Amy Freeman
My children think frozen blueberries are dessert. They “sneak” them from the freezer only to be betrayed moments later by indigo-hued lips so deeply tinged you’d think they’d been swimming in the Arctic. Considering blueberries have zero fat, 80 calories a cup and antioxidant properties, health-conscious moms call this superfood obsession a win-win-win.
What could be sweeter? Well, fresh blueberries, of course. That, and living near Gibsonville’s aptly named Blueberry Thrill Farm where we can pick blueberries to our hearts’ content for two straight months. Rick and Nanette Langhorne have owned the pick-your-own produce farm since 1982.
“Believe it or not, blueberries weren’t popular in the Piedmont 30 years ago. Some didn’t even know what they were,” Rick Langhorne says. “It may be hard to believe, but people just didn’t grow up eating them.”
Yet the berries are native to North America, he notes. In fact, Native Americans called them star berries because the blossom end of the fruit forms a star-shaped scar. “People often say things are as American as apple pie, but apples aren’t native to this country; it’s really blueberries.” Langhorne explains. Because they’re a native fruit, the United States has a huge head start in production, growing 90 percent of the world’s blueberries. North Carolina ranks No. 7 in U.S. production, with the eastern part of the state growing the lion’s share of the state’s haul.
The Langhornes grow three varieties of Southern Highbush blueberries, which ripen early and aren’t common to the area. This keeps visitors getting their “thrill on blueberry hill” from early June to early August when the later varieties ripen. Langhorne says everything’s looking fabulous for all their crops this year barring any unpredictable weather issues (check their Facebook page for details). The farm also offers pick-your-own blackberries, peaches, apples and flowers during the same timeframe as the blueberries.
A veritable fount of information, Rick can tell you just about anything you want to know about the crop varieties. Be sure to ask him about their Johnny Appleseed apples. Nanette can be found directing customers to the crops (and to Rick advising customers in the field) as well as ringing up orders and providing shears for picking flowers. Undoubtedly there are countless responsibilities for running a successful farm, but the Langhornes make it look easy. If Rick’s positive predictions are any indication, my kids are sure to pick enough blueberries to warrant throwing a few in the freezer even if Mom says fresh is best.