July is national blueberry month and that means it’s time to start enjoying these fresh, sweet, and antioxidant packed blue gems. Blueberries are rich in flavor and bright in color and make an excellent accompaniment to any summer dish. Whether you are picking your blueberries from your own bushes in your garden, run across wild plants in the woods or picking some up from your local market, they are sure to be delightful and mouth-watering.
Blueberries are sweet and juicy and are ripe when bluish-grey in color. Their size can range from a small pea to a large marble. They are one of the oldest known plants still living and are grown on a shrub in clusters. They have a white-gray waxy bloom that helps to give the surface of the berry a defensive coating from the harsh rays of the sun. Blueberries are very easy to prepare or eat since they require no pitting, cutting or peeling and are great used in dishes like salads, breads, desserts, smoothies, sauces and jams.
Blueberries are imported from various continents and can be found in markets throughout the year. However, fresh wild berries are most delicious and in season from June to August when the bulk of all North American blueberries are harvested. The earliest harvesting occurs in the southern United States and gradually moves north and into Canada as the season progresses.
What to Look For:
When purchasing blueberries it is important to look for a light grey blue color. If the blueberries have any hint of red, white or green in them they are not fully ripened and will not ripen after you take them home as some fruits will do. You will want your blueberries to be firm, smooth skinned, dry, and a little chubby. Avoid buying any blueberries that are too soft, withered or show any signs of mold.
Blueberries contain about 75 calories per one cup and are high in fiber, low in fat, and a great source of manganese, which is an advocate in bone development. Blueberries are packed with natural compounds that have been shown to fight a variety of diseases and support healthy aging. They have been linked to promoting brain health, having anti-inflammatory benefits, improving memory function, reducing cholesterol, and aiding in gut and urinary tract health to name just a few. Blueberries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit or vegetable and can help limit your chances of many diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
How to Store:
Always keep your blueberries chilled in your refrigerator in an open container to increase shelf life and make sure to remove any damaged berries to prevent the spread of mold. Do not wash blueberries until just before you are ready to use them. This will prevent your berries from becoming squishy. When you are ready to use your blueberries let them come to room temperature, before rinsing in cold water, to help enhance their natural taste. When stored correctly your blueberries should last between 5-7 days. If freezing your blueberries, place them in a single layer onto a baking sheet and allow them to freeze before transferring into a freezer safe container.
You can always substitute fresh blueberries for canned in any recipe. Simply cook 2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice, and 1/8 cup of water until thickened. Cool completely before using.
Blueberries can be dried and ground into a powder and used in a spice rub on meats.
If your blueberries sink to the bottom of your muffins or breads when cooking with them, try coating your blueberries with flour before adding them to any batter.
Blueberries are delicious but their juice can stain clothing. If you happen to find yourself with blueberry juice on your favorite shirt try dabbing the stain immediately with water. Then mix together 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent and 1 quart of cool water. Soak your stain in the solution for 15 minutes then rinse with cold water.
Looking for Blueberry Recipes? Give these a try:
*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*