Each year during blueberry season, I'm reminded of one of my favorite children's books, Blueberries for Sal. If you’re not familiar with this book, here’s the general storyline for this classic Robert McCloskey tale.
Sal, a toddler in a cute little romper, and her mother go to Blueberry Hill to collect berries to can for the winter. Little do they know that Mama Bear and her baby are also there, eating as many blueberries as they can before they tuck away for a long winter's hibernation. After Sal eats one too many berries from her mother’s pail, mom feels free to send her chubby little tot off to play and pick berries unattended on the wild hill so she can concentrate on her berry collecting duties (written in the 40s, this obviously couldn't happen today without Child Protective Services getting involved). Meanwhile Mama Bear is also annoyed with Baby Bear and so sends him off to find his own berries to store up for the winter. High jinx ensue -- after all, this is a children's story -- and everyone gets all mixed up on Blueberry Hill.
Sal stumbles upon Mama Bear and Baby Bear comes up behind Sal's mother -- but soon the kids are reunited with their appropriate parents. Sal and her mother have buckets of berries to bring home and Mama and Baby Bear can eat enough to store up for the long cold winter. The ending illustration is of little Sal and her mother canning away in their Maine kitchen.
I’ve always loved how this story encapsulates the fleetingness of blueberry season. Sweet and bursting with flavor for a short time, the berries on Blueberry Hill must be picked and eaten or quickly canned before they are lost. Irresistible to Sal and Baby Bear, they are a decadent delight for all children (or anyone) during their brief season. Sure, you can preserve them like Sal and her mom (or these days you can also buy frozen berries), but nothing compares to berries freshly picked.