Seasonal Superfoods: Blueberries

ColumnIdeas for one of the best superfoods of summer.

You may have heard that colorful fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious. It’s true. It’s because of the phytochemicals, or micronutrients, these foods contain. Phytochemicals include the famous disease-fighting compounds we hear about like antioxidants, flavenoids, and carotenoids, and are also what give certain fruits and vegetables their colorful hues. That’s why deeply colored foods are often the most nutritious.

Blue is one of the most powerful colors, phytochemically speaking, in the food world. And blueberries are such nutrient powerhouses that certain naughty food companies have been caught marketing little balls of sugar and food coloring as blueberries.

Thankfully real blueberries aren’t hard to come by, in fact, they’re in season now.

They’re also not that hard to grow yourself. Native to North America, blueberries come in three main plant varieties with dozens of sub varieties that are adapted to different climates in different parts of the country. You can even forage wild blueberries in some parts of the country, notably Maine. You can even grow them in chilly San Francisco backyards.

Choosing blueberries:
Blueberries have been getting bigger in the last few years—some approaching the size of gumballs. This is an unfortunate trend because, like most berries, the smaller the fruit, the more concentrated the flavor. When selecting blueberries, choose smaller ones whenever possible. It’s worth noting that Maine’s famous wild blueberries are teensy tiny and pack a huge flavor punch.

Storing blueberries:
Like most berries and other summer fruits, the kiss of the refrigerator is the kiss of death for flavor. So go ahead and keep them out at room temperature but consume them quickly. Freezing works well for blueberries, especially if you’re going to bake with them or make smoothies; just freeze in a zip-lock freezer bag and pull them out as needed.

Blueberry recipes:
The most obvious way to use blueberries is in desserts. They’re great in cobblers, pies, crisps, or any easy summer fruit dessert. In particular they have flavor affinities with lemon, cornmeal, and white chocolate. Try layering them into a parfait with lemon custard or curd and whipped cream.

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

Lemon Layer Cake with Curd and Blueberries

Blueberry White Chocolate Mousse Tart

For breakfast, I love them plain with yogurt, in smoothies, or stirred into my oatmeal or porridge. They’re also great toppers for pancakes, waffles, and crepes.

Savory blueberry ideas abound. They’re commonly paired with salmon, pork, and duck. They’re also good in salads with creamy blue or goat cheeses.

Grilled Salmon with Blueberry Salsa

Blueberry Gorgonzola Salad

Blueberries are super this time of year so get your fill while they’re in season!

Image: the_girl

This is the latest installment in Vanessa Barrington’s weekly column, The Green Plate, on the environmental, social, and political issues related to what and how we eat.

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.