Fresh Pick: Blueberries

Your weekly guide to seasonal fruits and veggies

August 8, 2014

Small but mighty, blueberries are the superheroes of superfoods. They freeze beautifully, can outlast delicate strawberries, and pair well with almost any food -- from fruits to nuts, meat to dairy. 

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While they certainly add visual appeal, they aren’t just a pretty addition to the table. They’re incredibly nutritious, delivering a range of health benefits along with intense flavor. High in antioxidants, they also boast plenty of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin A and are a good source of fiber. They also support heart, brain, and eye health while fighting cancer, inflammation, and aging. Not bad for a bitty berry!
In season: Harvest varies greatly depending on where you live. They're usually ready when peaches are in season, which can be any time between June and September.
How to pick it: You can judge a blueberry by its cover -- a silvery-white bloom should dust the berries’ dark blue skin. They should be firm and round, not wrinkled. Avoid berries with a greenish tinge -- these have been picked too soon. If you're shopping at a farmers’ market, ask if you can taste a few before buying. While the individual berries will vary in flavor, within a few bites you’ll know if the crop is ready to be devoured.
How to store it: Blueberries will keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days providing you don’t wash them, since moisture will make them go mushy. Place dry blueberries in a sealed container lined with a paper towel, and wash them when you're ready to use them. Frozen berries will keep for up to a year.
How to use it: Blueberries bring their nutrients and flavor to any meal. At breakfast they can top hot or cold cereal and blend perfectly into waffles, pancakes, muffins, and smoothies. For lunch, they pair well with nuts and/or cheese to turn a boring green salad into a delicious, filling meal. At dinner, they bake up well with pork and chicken. 

Dessert fans, of course, will love them in pies, tarts, ice cream, and crisps. And cookie fiends will find dried blueberries a delicious substitute for some (or all) of raisins or chocolate chips. Frozen berries work well in baked goods, but don’t defrost them. Just toss them into the batter frozen, just as you would with fresh berries.
Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp from The Messy Baker
(Make 6 to 8 servings)

Total time: 1 hour or less

You'll Need:

1⁄2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Peel of 1 orange, finely grated
3 cups pitted, peeled, and chopped peaches
4 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1⁄2 cups panko bread crumbs
1⁄2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1⁄2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄3 cup melted unsalted butter

How to Make It:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. To make the filling: In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, and orange peel until evenly combined.

3. In a large bowl, place the peaches and blueberries. Sprinkle with the vanilla and toss gently to evenly distribute the fruit. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture and toss gently to coat evenly. Spoon into an 8" × 8" glass baking dish. Level with the back of the spoon.

4. To make the topping: In a medium bowl, toss the panko, brown sugar, hazelnuts, and salt until well combined. Pour the butter over the crumbs and toss to coat well. Spoon the crumbs evenly over the fruit. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is crispy. Allow to cool for 30 to 45 minutes before serving. The crisp can be served warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: This dessert is best eaten the day it’s made. Any leftovers should be covered and refrigerated. Soggy topping can be rescued with a minute under the broiler.

Bonus Tips: Crisps are a great way to use up fruit that is almost past its prime. Be sure to remove bruises before chopping. For best results, try to cut the fruit into uniform pieces. 

Panko are coarse, extra-crispy bread crumbs often used in Japanese cooking. Once confined to Asian markets, these crumbs can now be found in most large chain grocery stores. Look in the Asian section or in the regular bread crumbs/melba toast aisle.

Not sure what to do with your in-season produce? All summer long, our experts are bringing you the facts on the freshest fruits and veggies at your local supermarket.

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