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Blueberries rooted in American history

(ran NP edition)

The blueberry is a native American species with deep roots in America's history.

American Indians enjoyed blueberries year-round, eating them fresh and dried, according to the North American Blueberry Council.

They were dried in the sun, then added whole to soups, stews and meat or crushed into a powder and rubbed into meat. The powder would also be combined with cornmeal, water and honey to make a pudding called Sautauthig.

The Pilgrims learned from the Indians to appreciate blueberries especially since it was the Indians' gift of blueberries that helped the new settlers make it through that first cold winter.

+ Availability: The North American blueberry harvest, which runs from mid-April through early October, peaks in July, National Blueberry Month.

+ Selection and storage: Branches on blueberry bushes offer a bounty of fruit, and, when it comes to picking your own, a gentle touch is best for selecting the ripest berries.

Take a bowl and position it beneath the bush. Brush a hand along the clusters of berries, and the ripe ones will drop into the bowl.

Be sure to check branches in the middle of the bush and near the ground. Often the best berries can be found in these often overlooked areas.

When buying packaged blueberries, keep in mind that size is not an indicator of maturity, but color is. Choose berries that are plump, firm and a powdery indigo. Reddish berries aren't ripe, but they can be used in cooking.

Stay away from containers of berries with juice stains, those with soft, watery overripe or dehydrated, wrinkled fruit.

After picking or purchasing blueberries, sort and discard any that have soft spots. Don't rinse the berries until you are ready to use, or you will remove the natural wax coating that protects their freshness.

If handled correctly and stored covered and dry in the refrigerator, blueberries can last up to 10 days.

To freeze, simply pack clean, fresh blueberries into freezer bags or containers and place in the freezer.

+ Preparation: Blueberries are one of the most versatile and convenient summer fruits.

They require little or no preparation, so feel free to eat them out of hand or sprinkle them on cereal, into pancake or muffin batter or on a salad.

They're also a sure hit in pies and tarts, crumb cakes, shortcakes and biscuit-covered cobblers, in fruit soups and fritters and as sauces for custards and puddings.

Though they can't be beaten in all things sweet, they're impressive on the savory side, too. The blueberry council suggests pairing its fresh, fruity flavor with pork, chicken and game or use them to add interest to fruit salsas and sauces accented with black or red pepper, thyme and mint.

Blueberries also go well with nearly all other fruits, nuts, liqueurs and many dairy foods such as ice cream, ricotta cheese or brie.

Spices love blueberries. Try them with cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and candied ginger, mace, nutmeg, vanilla beans or vanilla extract and fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint and basil, the council suggests.

For more information about blueberries, visit thies Web site, http://www.blueberry.org.

For a free copy of a blueberry recipe brochure, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Healthful Treats, North American Blueberry Council, 4995 Golden Foothill Parkway, Suite 2, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762.

+ Nutritional highlights: Blueberries are a healthy and convenient food. They're a delicious way to get vitamin C and fiber. In fact, a 1e-cup serving of fresh blueberries will give you 5 grams of fiber, more than most fruits and vegetables and 15 percent of your daily value for vitamin C with only 80 calories.

Blueberry-Apple Tortillas

6 tortillas

1 can (21 ounces) apple pie filling and topping

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

{ teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 large (7-inch) flour tortillas

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat apple filling until warm. Stir in blueberries and vanilla; cover to keep warm.

In a small bowl mix sugar and cinnamon until combined; set aside.

To assemble, brush each tortilla generously with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture. Divide blueberry-apple mixture into 6 equal parts and spread down the center of each tortilla. Fold bottom of the tortilla to partly cover the filling; fold in sides to enclose filling completely.

Garnish with additional blueberries and confectioners sugar, if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: 224 calories, 1.7 gm protein, 45.7 gm carbohydrates, 4.9 gm total fat, 10.9 mg cholesterol, 2.6 gm saturated fat, 3.1 gm dietary fiber, 126.8 mg sodium,5.8 gm sugar, 47.16 retinol equivalents vitamin A, 4.3 mg vitamin C, 52.8 mg calcium, 0.8 mg iron, 0 alcohol.

Source: North American Blueberry Council.

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