Blueberry season is exploding all around our area, much to my palate’s pleasure.
My brain tells me to think of the health benefits from this sweet little thing. Instead, I’m thinking of a steaming hot cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream the size of a coffee cup on top, the melting rivers of cream racing down and around the blueberries like a slalom skier to the sides of the bowl where they puddle and wait for my spoon to scoop up the goodness.
The health benefits. Right. I almost forgot.
Blueberries are jam packed with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, potassium and Vitamin C. If that sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, just think lower risk of heart disease and cancer, not to mention a natural anti-inflammatory.
Beyond the proven health benefits, there is the great taste. A handful of cold blueberries on a hot summer day will put pep in your step. You’ll feel like you’re capable of putting up 1,000 feet of three-board fence single-handedly. But, what you’ll probably do is grab another handful and think about how good it feels to be antioxidant-loading instead of carbo-loading.
If you already have three or four mature blueberry bushes in your yard, you know they will produce enough to keep berries on your table from now until next season. But if you don’t have any bushes, then get out this weekend and visit one of the several local farmers markets.
Better yet, visit a local U-Pick operation where you can sample the varieties and decide which you prefer.
One of the area’s largest is located at Overmountain Vineyards in Tryon. The berry patch opens at 7 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with berries expected to be plentiful for the next three weeks.
“We’re having big turnouts, so get them while you can,” said Sophia C. Lilly, assistant winemaker and chief farmer at Overmountain.
Trickle Creek Farm’s U-Pick in Sunnyview has both blueberries and blackberries.
Another great place to find quality blueberries is Campbell’s Berry Farm, a U-Pick operation located in the Bethlehem, at the edge of Alexander and Caldwell counties.
“If you’re looking for blueberries in this region, they are the nicest berry farm you’ll run into in North Carolina,” said Seth Nagy, director of Caldwell County’s Cooperative Extension. “It’s worth the drive.”
One of the great advantages to blueberries, in addition to the cobbler with vanilla ice cream, is that you can freeze them for eating all winter long. Think blueberry pancakes, muffins, scones or a winter smoothie. Never made a smoothie? Just throw some blueberries, banana, almond butter and honey with your liquid of choice into the blender and turn it on.
If you want to freeze blueberries, it’s easy. First, don’t wash them. Second, spread them out evenly on a baking sheet. Third, pop them in the freezer. After they are frozen, pour them into a container. This way the berries won’t freeze as a solid mass.
To keep freshly picked berries tasting and looking fresh in the refrigerator, rinse them in a 10% white vinegar and water mixture to kill any mold spores. This also works to keep all your farmers market produce fresh.
If you’re using your berries to make a cobbler and need the recipe taste-tested, call me. Day or night. At your service.
Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at email@example.com