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blueberrylogo.jpg (7789 bytes)All About Blueberries

Fresh blueberries are now in the produce section of many upscale markets nearly year-round as they are imported from countries like Chile...but when possible,  I prefer to "eat local"  when blueberries are available (May through September) in the U.S. they are the best tasting of fresh local berries.  In the USA, Maine, Michigan and other states are growing blueberries.  I recently read an article about a blueberry farmer in California selling his crop at farmers' markets giving Californians yet another crop that they can enjoy without the long shipping distance from East Coast states.  While awaiting the arrival of my local blueberries from NY/NJ/CT I bought blueberries from Florida which are delicious so check the produce department in your best supermarket and see where the blueberries are coming from. 

Even before the Europeans arrived in the New World, Native American's prized the blueberry. TheyBlueberries called them "star berries" because of the star-shaped calyx at the top of each berry. They gathered blueberries in the forests and meadows cleared by burns and other places where acid soils were present. I suppose they had to share the blueberry bounty with bears and other mammals that are known to be expert blueberry pickers.

When European colonists arrived, they took to the new fruit immediately, creating pies, cobblers, preserves, syrups and wonderfully unique desserts such as blueberry slump or grunt, a kind of boiled cobbler, and blueberry buckle, similar to a crisp.

Blueberries have been around for thousands of years, but cultivated varieties have only been around since about 1900. A New Jersey botanist, Frederick Colville, began to cross different varieties of wild blueberries to create an easily grown blueberry for home gardens and farms. He was successful in that today there are many varieties available to professional and amateur fruit growers. Most cultivated blueberries are high bush plants that grow to 10 or 15 feet for easy hand or machine harvesting. Although blueberries can be grown in countries other than Canada and the United States, a large percentage of the world's crop still comes from North America. Commercially harvested wild blueberries are low bush plants. In New England and eastern Canada, vast areas provide the perfect habitat for growing blueberries.

Blueberry Facts and Tips

  • Look for blueberries that are plump firm and relatively free from leaves and stems.
  • Store covered in the refrigerator and they'll keep for up to two weeks. Berries should be washed just before eating.
  • Freeze unwashed fresh blueberries by arranging them in one layer on a cookie sheet and freeze. When frozen, transfer berries to freezer bags or containers. Properly stored, frozen blueberries will last up to 1 year.  Rinse and drain before using.  I use this technique to savor the local blueberries from my area for longer than their all-to-short growing season.
  • If you "pick your own blueberries" from a farm, leave the bag or container open to the air so moisture doesn't form.

Blueberry Nutrition and Eating

  • At 84 calories per cup (143 grams) they are a low-cal snack.
  • Blueberries are high in dietary fiber, Vitamin A and niacin
  • Add fresh (or frozen) blueberries to hot and cold cereals.
  • Fill a cantaloupe half with fresh blueberries and add a dollop of yogurt
  • Make a summer treat by alternating frozen yogurt with fresh blueberries in a parfait glass
  • Sprinkle fresh blueberries into a bowl of other cut up fresh fruit or add some to a green salad

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
cup EACH, orange juice and water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
teaspoon grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat about 5 minutes or until thickened. Makes about 2 cups.  Use on pancakes, waffles, blintzes, or vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Cheese Tart

1 cups vanilla cookie crumbs
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
cup sugar
2 eggs
teaspoon pure vanilla
teaspoon lemon zest

Combine cookie crumbs, butter and nutmeg. Press into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest with and electric mixer until smooth. Spoon into the cookie crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until firm. Let cool completely.  Spread  Blueberry Topping (recipe below) over cheesecake. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.  Yield: 8 slices

Blueberry Topping

Combine 2 cups fresh blueberries; cup sugar, cup water; 2 Tablespoons cornstarch and a dash of salt in a saucepan Cook and stir about 4 minutes or until thickened. Stir in 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Cool to lukewarm before spreading on cheese tart. Yield: about 2 cups




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