Nothing says “summer” like blueberries. The little gems are the juiciest this time of year, and although Alex Amoroso is tempted to eat handfuls of them, he knows that his family farm’s blueberry harvest is instead destined for some of the best desserts in the world. his bakery.
Amoroso is the namesake behind the famous Greensboro and Winston-Salem Cheesecakes by Alex stores, where customers have come to know and love summer treats like Blueberry Cheesecake, Blueberry Scones and Blueberry Lemon Cake. But what customers might not know is that those beautiful blueberries that spring from the store’s baked goods are grown just down the street in Amoroso’s own backyard.
“When my wife and I built a house, we knew we wanted to grow something on the land,” Amoroso says of his 45-acre property in Liberty, North Carolina. “We didn’t have time to grow vegetables, but blueberries – we knew we could use them in the bakery.”
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So Amoroso and his wife Vera planted seven different varieties of rabbiteye blueberries, all hand-selected to deliver bold flavors and cover the longest annual growing period. In total, the farm has more than a mile of blueberry beds, about 1,000 bushes.
“Why did we plant 1,000 bushes, well, I don’t know!” Amoroso laughs. “But we are eight years old now and the bushes have really matured. Without any late season frosts this year to prune them, we are getting an even bigger crop this year. »
Farm-fresh berries make a remarkably delicious difference in all of Alex’s cheesecakes, but Amoroso most proudly points to blueberry muffins.
“The skins of our berries are a bit thicker than what other bakeries buy canned, so they hold up in the batter really well,” he says. “Our blueberries retain their beautiful fleshy shape. In other muffins, all you can have is what is essentially just the remains of a blueberry.
Even better? All of Amoroso’s blueberries achieve perfection without the use of pesticides.
Instead, Amoroso believes that a healthy ecosystem will produce the best berries, so he introduced four beehives to help pollinate his flowering blueberries.
“Not using chemicals makes it harder, but it’s something we strongly believe in. Any type of pesticide or weed killer will affect your bee population. By protecting the bees, we ultimately produce better blueberries. »
New this summer, a blueberry danish has been added to the Cheesecakes by Alex menu, featuring the shop’s traditional laminated dough topped with a house cheese and blueberry filling.
Amoroso also sells its high quality honey at the shop. (Keep an eye out – it’s selling out fast!)
“We try to be good stewards of the land, and in return, we’re rewarded with the tastiest honey and blueberries for our baked goods,” says Amoroso. “If it’s good for the bees, it’s good for the blueberries, it’s good for the bakery.”
Stop by any of the Cheesecakes by Alex restaurants for a slice of summer blueberry cheesecake and celebrate National Cheesecake Day on Saturday, July 30!
For more information, visit cheesecakesbyalex.com.