Pennsylvania is known for its wild blueberry bushes. Finding them before the birds do can be a bit of a problem, though. Luckily, there are “You Pick” blueberry patches where families can pick blueberries and, of course, farmers markets.
July is national blueberry month. This July, look at your meals and snacks and see if you can find ways to include more blueberries in your food choices.
Blueberries make a great snack as well as an ingredient in many baked and side dish recipes. They are loaded with vitamins and phytochemicals, which give them their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits. One half cup contains only 40 calories.
When buying blueberries, look for firm and plump blueberries, with uniform size and color. The coloring of fresh berries should be deep purple to nearly black with a silver to white frost on the skin. They should also be dry and free from leaves and stems.
Before storing blueberries, check the container for any spoiled, wrinkled, smashed, or moldy berries. Be sure to use any extremely ripe berries within 24 hours. The rest should be refrigerated unwashed for up to 5 to 7 days in a dry, covered container. Do not wash before storing. The moisture will cause a shorter storage life.
There are a couple of tricks to freezing fresh blueberries. First, select full-flavored, ripe berries. Remove leaves, stems and immature or defective berries.
DO NOT wash blueberries before freezing. Blueberries should be completely dry before freezing. Washing results in a tougher skinned frozen product. Place blueberries in a single layer on a tray in the freezer and then pack into containers as soon as they are frozen. Alternatively, simply pack berries directly into containers, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze. Rinse berries before using.
Here are some great tips to try when using fresh or frozen blueberries.
Stir blueberries (right from the freezer, if frozen) into a cake or muffin batter last to minimize color streaking.
When making pancakes and waffles, pour the batter then add the blueberries. This will make the pancakes prettier and easier to flip. If using frozen blueberries, increase-cooking time until berries heat through.
Add a few blueberries to your nightly salad. Top with a balsamic dressing.
Sprinkle blueberries into nonfat vanilla yogurt or vanilla frozen yogurt.
Add fresh blueberries to your chicken salad.
Here is an easy recipe for your 4th of July get together!
Blueberry Corn Muffins
1 ¼ cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1tsp baking soda
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Whisk the egg, buttermilk and canola oil in a bowl. Add to the cornmeal mixture all at once and stir until combined. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon into nonfat sprayed muffin cups, filling ¾ full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 12 muffins.
Note to make buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk.
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.