As a young boy, Marv Phelps said he wanted to figure out how to grow blueberries that weigh a pound each.
Now close to 70, Marv hasn’t yet cracked the code on the pounder, but he’s still devoted to blueberries, tending bushes his father planted on the family’s Gresham-area farm in the 1950s.
“I do everything I can for these plants except sing them to sleep at night,” Phelps says, of his two acres and 40-some varieties.
He can show you a few bushes sporting berries the size of a quarter, but the main event here is flavor. His late July crop simply tastes better than most other blueberries, because Marv puts flavor over ease of cultivation when choosing varieties.
Which is why Grand Central buys his entire crop, going back eight years, to use in blueberry muffins.
“I eat a lot of blueberries throughout the season, and the others, they just don’t stack up,” says the bakery’s Gina Langley. “There’s something magic about Marv’s berries.”
Marv picks and freezes the blueberries when they ripen in late July. Then, twice a month, he delivers them to Grand Central’s kitchen, for bakers to use in muffins year-round. (The bakery also buys fresh summer blueberries from Patrick’s Berries.)
Gina first tried Marv’s blueberries in the dead of winter, when he brought in a sample of his frozen fruit. “When I opened the box I was punched in the face with the sweet smell of blueberries. It was almost like it was summer again.”
Marv’s marvelous frozen berries mean our Blueberry Muffins are packed with local fruit 12 months a year. These tender, cakelike muffins are made with ribbons of sour cream and clarified butter. They’re moist, scented with vanilla and shot through with those blueberries.
We can also vouch for Marv’s hospitality. Over the years, our bakers and café staff have visited his farm to meet Marv, pick berries and check out the old-fashioned berry sorting machine that he uses to this day.
Now the fourth generation of Phelps farmers are helping grow berries. Yields are down a bit this year, and Marv is spending less time in the orchard. But we’ll keep buying his berries as long as he keeps growing them.