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Taste the flavors of childhood with blueberries
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Sundays were mighty special around our farm. Of course, they all started with the mad rush of two adults and four children attempting to eat breakfast, clean up and dress for Sunday school and church.

I suppose the fact that we accomplished this with only one bath room and were always on time would boggle the mind of many modern day teenagers. That trip over a red clay dirt road, a one lane rickety wooden bridge and the services that followed seemed to bring peace and meaning to our humble lives.

While I could certainly pen several columns about the importance of those services in that wood-framed country church, my purpose in the following lines is not to speak of the spiritual portion of my boyhood Sundays, but of the physical part.

Yes, dear reader, I'm talking about Sunday dinner.

Now allow me to be clear. We're not discussing supper, but the meal the followed church and took place between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Like most Southern mothers of the mid 20th century, my Mama could cook and Sundays were always her best day.

I could go on forever about how delicious the roast beef or ham was. I can't find the right words to explain just how incredible Mama's fried chicken was or how tasty her macaroni and cheese was. Her gravy and biscuits were amazing, and we always had butter beans, green beans, tomatoes, purple hull peas, corn and squash from Daddy's garden.

Then came the desserts. I'm not talking cake, even though I enjoy a good piece of chocolate cake. The desserts we enjoyed during the spring and summer months came from our peach orchard or Daddy's strawberry patch. My mouth begins to water even now as I remember the absolute goodness of strawberry shortcake during the late spring months. As the strawberries turned to peaches during June and July, the taste got even better.

Ah, the taste of memories past. Those tastes don't have to be merely a part of our past. You and I can make some flavorful memories with your children and grandchildren by planting some of those great fruits and vegetables. And why not start with dessert?

As a boy, I would have told you that no fruits compared in flavor to my favorites, strawberries and peaches. Of course, at that young age I hadn't tried blueberries. If there is any taste better than fresh Georgia grown Rabbiteye blueberries with a little dab of real whipped cream, I don't think I could stand it. The good news for the prospective blueberry grower is that blueberries, unlike peaches, are quite easy to grow and don't have the propensity for developing diseases like so many other fruits.

Rabbiteye blueberries are native to Georgia and are generally the best choice for our area. If you happen to live on a mountain top, you might consider the northern highbush type. The southern high bush varieties will also grow in North Georgia, but they require extremely high levels of organic matter.

Rabbiteyes are extremely disease and insect resistant. They do, however, require a low pH of 4.0 to 5.3 for best growth. One of the most important things to remember when planting Rabbiteyes is to plant more than one variety because cross-pollination is essential for fruit set.

The earliest ripening varieties are Austin, Climax and Premier. Climax , Chaucer, Choice and Woodard are not suggested for mountain areas because they bloom too early. Baldwin, Centurion and Delite are the latest maturing varieties. Tifblue, Centurion, Brightwell and Powderblue are generally the most spring freeze resistant.

This is a great time to plant blueberries. Choose a sunny location and soil test to determine the pH and fertility level of your soil. Organic matter should be mixed thoroughly into the soil. If the soil's pH is too high, you can lower it with the use of sulfur. More cultural information concerning blueberries can be obtained by contacting your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office.

The memories of wonderful flavors of our past are great, but why not experience those wonderful flavors today? Several well-tended Rabbiteye blueberry plants will be a great first step in creating some new delicious memories.

Gene Anderson is the interim Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994. E-mail genea@uga.edu.

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