Produce Pick of the Month: Blueberries

Blueberries are truly an All-American fruit, well... as American as a fruit can get right?

Native to North America, blueberries were already being used by the Native Americans as both food and medicine. It is even believed that blueberries were served to the pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving. The modern blueberry, the Highbush Blueberry, commercially grown today was cultivated by Elizabeth White, a New Jersey farmer's daughter, and Dr. Frederick Coville.

Loaded with fiber and vitamin C blueberries are a healthy addition to your everyday diet. They're rich in antioxidant power too! What makes blueberries my produce pick of the month is their ease of use. While perfectly great by the handful they're also easy to toss into salad or cereal, top yogurt or ice cream. With their brilliant hue they're pretty when added to less colorful dishes and they mix well with so many other foods from poultry and citrus fruits to baked goods and hot cereal.

Keeping in mind that while blueberries are rich in good stuff your body needs they're also one of the Environmental Working Groups' "Dirty Dozen", foods that test high for traces of pesticides. Meaning it's best to try and buy them organic when possible.

But how do you choose fresh blueberries? I think they're one of the easiest fruits to buy. You want the ones that are plump (not withered looking), have a purple-blue to deep-blue almost black color with a frosty silver brushed look. Since they usually come in plastic containers check the bottom and the sides for dampness and stains, skip the ones that have it because it's a sign the fruit is bruised and may have mold hiding in the middle. Having had my fare share of blueberries I've had to toss from not knowing this I've become a blueberry expert at the store. When you get them home just pop them in the fridge and do not wash them until you're ready to gobble them up.

Want to freeze your own blueberries? Check out blueberrycouncil.org for the lowdown on how to do it right!

One of my favorite recipes for a summer into autumn dessert is a recipe from Real Simple magazine for Peach Crisp. But when I make it I substitute a cup of blueberries for a few of the peaches. Together the bright sweetness of the blueberries add a little bit of texture to the squishy velvety peaches. It's absolutely divine and the recipe is so simple!
Peach Crisp By Sara Quessenberry, August 2009 (source)

Serves 8
Hands-On Time: 20m
Total Time: 1hr 15m

5 pounds peaches (about 12), each cut into 8 wedges
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped

1.Heat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, toss the peaches, granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon of the flour. Transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish.
2.In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, and the remaining 3/4 cup of flour. Using your fingers, incorporate the butter until coarse crumbs form. Mix in the oats and almonds.
3.Squeeze the topping into marble-size clumps and sprinkle on the peaches. Bake until the top is golden and the fruit is tender, 45 to 55 minutes.

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