Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blueberries Abound

When blueberries come in season, late June through July I can’t seem to get my fill of these sweet, healthy nuggets. They boast impressive amounts of fiber and nutrients and so few calories - about 80 for one cup. Their uses are many and varied; blueberries add color to assorted fresh fruit, hot and cold cereals and fruit smoothies. I also fold them into muffin, pancake and waffle batter with great results and blueberries turn out memorable homemade pies and cobblers. When these nutritional powerhouses are at the height of their season I make a colorful and complimenting dessert where I layer blueberries with lemon yogurt and homemade granola.

Blueberries grow in clusters and vary in size from that of a small caper to the size of a marble. They are deep in color, ranging from blue to maroon to purple-black, and feature a white-gray waxy "bloom" that covers the berry's surface and serves as a protective coat. The skin surrounds a semi-transparent flesh that encases tiny seeds. Blueberries are literally bursting with beneficial antioxidants. Recent research examined 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capability and blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy cancer causing free radicals.

Selecting, Storing, Preparing
Look for blueberries that are firm and free of wrinkles. Make sure berries aren’t soft and damaged or moldy, test by jostling the container, the berries should move freely. Blueberries should be free of moisture since the presence of water will cause the berries to decay. Fresh berries are fragile and should be washed briefly and drained if they are not organic. It’s best to wash berries just prior to use. Blueberries are best consumed within a few days of purchase. Store them in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Blueberries can be frozen with great success. To prepare for freezing, wash, drain and remove any damaged berries, spread berries on a rimmed baking sheet, place in the freezer until frozen. Transfer berries to a plastic bag, freeze until ready to use. Berries typically last up to a year in the freezer.