Blueberries pack a healthy punch
Posted: 06/18/2012 at 1:15 am
Food & Nutrition
This spring and summer has been very challenging to our fruit growers. Some of the crops were greatly impacted and the supply was very limited. I personally was surprised that the strawberries were as nice as they were and most of them had excellent flavor that was very pleasing. When I write my column, I really like to be ahead of when a locally grown food is coming into season. Needless to say, this is becoming more challenging.
Regardless, as I have written before and will continue to write, that when fruits and vegetables are in season locally that is the time to enjoy them and also preserve them. When it comes to food preservation, you want to preserve food when it is at its best, possibly even a little unripe versus over ripe.
I cannot stress enough that we all need to continue to eat foods with lots of colors. Vegetables and fruits are foods of various colors and summer is the time to enjoy them fresh. Then, if you have the desire, plan to do some food preservation, such as freezing, canning or drying.
This year I am not going to miss the opportunity to write about blueberries. Wild blueberries, which are also round, dark blue berries, are smaller than our cultivated variety, and grow wild in Scandinavia, the British Isles, Russia, and North and South America. What most of you pick and even purchase in the grocery stores are cultivated varieties and date only from the early 20th century.
You should be eating for your health, not your taste buds. If you are eating for your health, then you need to eat blueberries of any variety as they are all good for you. The wild blueberries may be small but they pack a healthy punch. USDA studies show that wild blueberries rank No. 1 in antioxidant activity compared with more than 20 other fruits. Since most of us are eating cultivated blueberries, it is good to know that they are right behind the wild ones when it comes to providing antioxidants.
You could benefit from eating and enjoying your daily dose of blue. Plan to add fresh or frozen blueberries to cereal, smoothies, salads and dinner entrees. Just a half cup is all you need to satisfy one of your recommended 5-a-Day servings of colorful vegetables and fruits. Blueberries are marketed fresh, frozen and canned. The blueberry has a long harvest time, growing in our area from July often through August, but this year will be different, I am sure. I suggest you pick your blueberries early so you for sure have them.
When picking or selecting berries, choose firm, plump berries with a silvery bloom; they should not have stems attached. Avoid juice-stained containers and soft berries. When it comes to storage, refrigerate fresh berries for up to two weeks and wash just before using. To freeze fresh blueberries, most authorities suggest that you do not rinse the berries before freezing. Pack rigid plastic containers or freezer bags. You can also place single layers on trays for individual quick freeze and then place frozen berries in containers, removing as much air as possible. Some local growers prefer to rinse the berries first before freezing, then dry and freeze. I suggest you try both ways and then you will know which you prefer. Frozen berries will keep at least a year.
If you did not rinse the berries before freezing, then remember when you are ready to use them to rinse the berries just before using and place in a strainer to remove as much water as possible. They donít have to be defrosted before using. Fresh uncooked blueberries can be enjoyed as is, or as part of snacks or any meal.
When blueberries are blended with other berries, such as raspberries and strawberries, they make a simply prepared, visually appealing and delicious fruit cup. Blueberries not only add color and flavor but lots of nutrition. They are wonderful when added to fruit salads, yogurt, ice cream, muffins, and pancakes. They also add sweetness to pies, tarts, cobblers, puddings, coffee cakes, tea breads and other baked desserts. Blueberries need to be a part of your healthy eating and a real part of MyPlate.
Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is an Extension educator in consumer family science. Write to her at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; fax 533-0254; or email email@example.com.