Following food will take you to the most unlikely places. Our search for blueberries led us to the little town of Nahunta, which I’m told was either named for a man named N. A. Hunter or it was derived from a native American word. Nahunta has historically been dominated by the timber industry and you simply cannot go a nanosecond without seeing pine trees. Tobacco was also a large part of the area’s economy, but that industry has all but dried up. Along with the rest of Brantley county, Nahunta’s focus has recently turned to blueberries and the industry is thriving. We had a chance to visit the Southern Blue packing shed where, during peak season, they process up to 35,000 pounds of blueberries a day. Amazing. They grow several varieties of blueberries throughout the region and the different types come into season at different times, allowing for a much longer harvesting season. While the city of Alma my have claims on being the blueberry capital of Georgia, the unique microclimate of Brantley county gives them a jump start on the season with berries turning ripe a full two weeks ahead of the other growing regions.
21,000 pounds of blueberries were packed the day we visited
Fresh berries on the bush...all you can eat!
I was asked to judge the blueberry dessert competition at the Taste of Brantley festival and of course I said “yes”. You’d almost be an idiot not to! I’m going to try and get some of those recipes to share with you, but there were things like Blueberry Pecan Crunch, Lemony Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry Coffee Crumb Cake, and a fabulous Blueberry Kuchen (which took home the honor of first prize). It’s tough to be a judge at a tasting when you only have half a stomach, but I do my best. I literally just take a small bite and then move on, which takes a ton of will power when you’re eating glorious blueberry desserts.
We also visited a great herb farm near Nahunta run by Vince and Debbie Baker. Mint, rosemary, oregano, chives, lavender, sorrel, basil, thyme, salad greens (including one seriously peppery arugula) and even some baby root vegetables are all carefully tended to produce a crop that any cook worth their weight in salt would covet. It’s tough work, to be sure, but Vince and Debbie never seem to stop smiling.
Baby white and red turnips from the herb farm
Nahunta is also extremely proud of their award winning Circle R beef jerky, produced by Tom and Michelle Raulerson (the same folks who made the winning blueberry dessert). I’m actually finishing off the last of the Caribbean style beef jerky as I write this, but luckily folks in the state of Georgia can order directly from their website. Most beef jerky you find these days is so highly processed that it scarcely resembles food, but this stuff is hand crafted, honest-to-goodness beef jerky. Good stuff.
I don't know that I would've every found Nahunta without the help of the Boland family and the fine folks at the Brantely Telephone Company. If you ever find yourself in extreme southeast Georgia, make sure you stop in Nahunta.