photo: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash
Summer is Mother Nature’s busy season for producing a wide array of wonderful fruit and vegetables for us to enjoy. Currently, plump, sweet blueberries are making their appearance at local farmers’ markets in my area and pick-your-own farms are welcoming guests. Grab a carton (or bucket) of these delicious superfood gems and savor some summer goodness.
5 QUICK BLUEBERRY FACTS
- Blueberries have been around for more than 13,000 year and are native to North America, but are commercially grown in both North and South America, and Europe.
- They are part of the Heather plant family along with cranberries, huckleberries and bilberries.
- Blueberry plants come in several varieties with the two most common being highbush and lowbush.
- The color of ripe, ready-to-eat blueberries can range from blue to dark purple.
- Blueberries are considered a superfood because of the high level of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant compounds they provide that support heart, skin, gut and brain health, bone strength, cancer prevention and blood sugar regulation.
Because they are grown in both North and South America, we can enjoy fresh blueberries year-round. North American blueberry season runs from April into September. The South American season runs from October to March. In season, blueberries can be found at farmers’ markets and roadside stands, and year-round at grocery stores. They come in several forms – fresh, frozen, dried, canned, juiced, and pureed.
When choosing fresh blueberries, look for those that are:
- dark blue or purple
- firm and plump
- have smooth skins
Berries that are reddish in color are not fully ripe. Avoid berries that have signs of mold, or are shriveled or soft.
The blueberries in a frozen bag should feel loose. If they are bound together, it indicates the package has been thawed and refrozen one or more times, which can affect quality.
Fresh blueberries are best when stored in the refrigerator and used within 7 – 10 days. Keep them in the original packaging or transfer them to a covered container or bowl. Hold off on washing them until just before using.
Once frozen blueberries are thawed, either use them immediately or cover, refrigerate and use within 3 days.
photo: Mario Mendez on Unsplash
Sweet, juicy blueberries pair nicely with citrus, banana, mint, basil, rosemary, balsamic, coconut, a variety of cheese, grilled and creamy foods, wine, brandy, and other berries, of course!
Whether fresh or frozen, blueberries offer a variety of sweet and savory uses –
- sprinkle on oatmeal, rice pudding or any custard, yogurt or ice cream
- blend into smoothies or frozen summer desserts
- fold into baked goods, or pancake or waffle batter
- add fresh or dried berries to salads
- use dried blueberries in grain dishes
- puree and strain to use as a “coulis” (sauce)
And, check these out –
- Blueberry Pizza from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
- Fish with Warm Blueberry Salsa from Driscolls
What’s your favorite way to enjoy blueberries? Share it in the comments section.
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