Gardening is like an affair between two passionate but disparate beings: In the beginning you, the gardener, pour your love into the garden and sometimes it’s returned tenfold. Other times, not so much. Feeling rejected, you ask “Is it me? Where have I gone wrong?” As the relationship matures, you realize the failures are not all your fault; a garden takes work and is constantly evolving.

This summer has been a tough one for gardeners. As the National Weather Service put it, “May 2020 will be remembered for containing weather representing all four seasons within one month, finishing with near-normal temperatures for the month, but below average precipitation.” Roughly translated, this meant it was too hot for cool-weather spring plants and too cold for seedlings, with most of the rainfall in the cool period and nothing much since. Adding insult to injury, there seem to be more insect predators than usual, with potato bugs and earwigs chomping plants with a vengeance. So first-time gardeners — most notably, those who planted victory gardens as a hedge against food insecurity or to take advantage of quarantine or furlough to spend restorative time outside in the sun and fresh air — may have been understandably discouraged by the rocky start early to the season. Trust me: it’s not you. Times have been hard for all of us.

Fortunately, the trickle of early summer crops has finally become a flood of beans, squashes, cucumbers, young beets and baby carrots, new potatoes and assorted cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. Tomatoes and corn, twin pillars of the summer harvest, are ripening, which means blueberries are right behind.

Whether you grow your own, head to a u-pick operation or buy wild Maine berries from local producers, the first weeks of August are the time to load up on this antioxidant-rich fruit. Freezing fresh blueberries is the best way to ensure you’ll have them throughout the winter months to toss into pancakes or muffins or sprinkle on cereal or yogurt and they are uniquely suitable for freezing. You may have noticed that blueberries have a waxy, almost frosted appearance. This is the result of a natural protective coating known as bloom. Bloom protects against pests and bacteria, but it also gives the berries a nonstick covering, so that, once frozen, they will pour out of their container like split shot. Just spread your berries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and pop them into the freezer, where they will freeze quickly and evenly. Once frozen, store the berries in zip-top plastic bags, which will allow you to pour out just the right amount when needed.

Don’t be overzealous and freeze all your berries. During the hottest days, use some in cool summer smoothies or incorporate them into healthy homemade frozen treats kids of all ages will enjoy, like the following coconut-blueberry popsicles.

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112 cups blueberries
112 Tbsp. water
5 Tbsp. maple syrup
34 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
12 cup milk (almond milk is fine for a non-dairy option)
Combine blueberries, water, and three tablespoons maple syrup in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until syrupy and thick. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining maple syrup, coconut milk, and regular milk. Fill popsicle molds a little over half-full with coconut milk mixture, then spoon in blueberry mixture to fill to the top. If using sticks, place mold in freezer for one hour before removing and inserting wooden sticks. If using molds with sticks built into tops, put tops on immediately. Freeze at least 4 hours, or until popsicles are solid.

As days cool down, you may feel inclined to turn on your oven again. Here’s a one-bowl blueberry cake that is great for breakfast or, topped with ice cream or whipped cream, dessert for a summer evening.

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114 cups flour
23 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
34 tsp. each baking powder and baking soda
14 tsp. sea salt
1 egg
13 cup olive oil
12 cup Greek yogurt
12 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
112 cups blueberries
1 tsp. each lemon zest and lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8- or 9-inch springform or round cake pan, then dust well with flour. If using a cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper. Place flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and use a fork to mix together. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and pour into it the egg, olive oil, yogurt, applesauce, vanilla, and lemon zest. Using the fork, mix all together until smooth and blended. In another bowl, mix blueberries with the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon flour. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle blueberries in a single layer on the top. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool completely. If using a springform pan, remove sides to serve. If using a cake pan, serve from pan or lift out with parchment paper. If desired, serve with ice cream or whipped cream.