Produce of the Week - Blueberries
sponsored by Coleman Farms
Blueberries are in the news and they're in the Market. They're in the news because of their claimed health benefits - they're supposed to prevent everything from macular degeneration in humans to liver cancer in rats (and so, by extension, in humans, provided they're rat-like in the places that count). They're so beneficial that you might wonder anyone manages it to maturity without them. They're in the markets because of fairly recent developments both in the plants, which have produced cultivars capable of thriving without winter freezes, and developments in methods of cultivation which, in our case, allow coastal Carpinteria to closely enough simulate the New Jersey pine barrens (pines growing on glacial sand deposits, with a high water table) for the plants to be happy.
Like pretty much any berry, blueberries can be eaten right off the bush, but they also lend themselves to culinary uses, both raw and cooked, in such things as fruit salads, cold cereal, over yoghurt, in tarts and other baked goods and as the basis for various sauces (perhaps including whole berries) either for desserts or for savory courses.
Blueberries are fragile and have a short shelf, which makes the purchase of locally grown ones especially sensible. Additionally, you should be able to try a few before you buy. I've found commercial blueberries (from supermarkets or markets not so super, apart from their prices) to be something like the girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead: some will be nicely tart or sweet, but often they're only soft and watery, and greatly disappointing, if not actually horrid.
photo courtesy US taxpayers, via USDA