Blueberries are a popular small fruit native to North America. They grow on bushes; fresh blueberries are in their prime from June through August. Blueberries are small round berries about 0.2 to 0.6 inches across. Their color can range from blue to purple. They are often eaten fresh but can also be enjoyed frozen, added to a wide variety of baked goods, or juiced or pureed.
What Are Blueberries?
Blueberries are small blue or purple fruits that grow on bushes. The berries can be eaten raw or cooked into baked goods. These inexpensive fruits require no preparation to enjoy and can be found at nearly all grocery stores.
How to Cook With Blueberries
Blueberries can be enjoyed by the handful as is. You can also add them to fruit salads, smoothies, or cereal as an added treat. To bake with them, follow the recipe and add in blueberries by the cupful. Be sure to stir any pancake, bread, or cake batter gently once the blueberries have been added. If you beat or mix the batter too roughly, the blueberries will burst and the batter will become purple. Frozen blueberries can be added to sparkling water or tea for a healthy sweet treat.
What Do They Taste Like?
Most blueberries have a sweet taste with a bit of acid. They are not overly sweet fruits, and unripe blueberries will taste sour. They are small but juicy and will release juice when you bite down. Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated ones and often have a more floral taste.
Besides eating them fresh, blueberries are often added to baked goods like homemade pancakes, muffins, and other treats.
Where to Buy Blueberries
Blueberries are available in many forms and sizes, including canned, dried, and pureed as well as fresh. Fresh berries are available in most major grocery stores in the produce section. Select berries that are completely blue with no tinge of red. That natural shimmery silver coating you see on blueberries is desirable as it is a natural protectant. Blueberries must be ripe when purchased, as they do not continue to ripen after harvesting. Avoid soft, watery, or moldy blueberries. Stained or leaking containers are an indication of fruit past its prime.
Canned blueberries are often in the baking aisle. Dried blueberries are often found with the raisins and other dried fruit. Frozen blueberries are in the freezer aisles with other frozen fruit.
Wild blueberries can also be foraged from their bushes. Blueberries grow on shrubs and are easy to recognize. The bushes don't have thorns, and they are quite easy to pick. Simply pluck a ripe berry off the bush. If there is a lot of resistance, the berry is not ripe. Some farms may offer blueberry picking in the summer season. Blueberries can also be grown at home. They are an easy berry to grow and do not require a lot of space.
Keep blueberries refrigerated, unwashed, in a rigid container covered with clear wrap. They should last up to two weeks if they are freshly picked. Water on fresh blueberries hastens deterioration, so do not wash before refrigerating and avoid those at your grocers that are exposed to mist sprayers used to keep greens fresh. Blueberries are highly perishable, so do try to use them as soon as possible.
Blueberries are an excellent candidate for freezing. After thawing, they are only slightly less bright and juicy as in their original harvest state. Do not wash them before freezing as the water will cause the skins to become tough. Rinse after thawing and before eating. To freeze for future cooking, place the berries in a rigid covered container with one inch of space for expansion. If you plan on serving them in the future in their thawed, uncooked state, pack them in a syrup made of 4 cups water plus 3 cups sugar, seal, and freeze. For crushed or pureed blueberries, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar for each quart. Frozen blueberries will keep for a year in the freezer. Blueberries are also easily canned or dried at home.
Nutrition and Benefits
Blueberries are a very nutritious fruit. They have one of the highest antioxidant values of any fruit and a number of health benefits. A full cup of blueberries has just 80 calories and up to 9 grams of fiber. Additionally, they are a good source of vitamin K1, vitamin C, and the essential mineral manganese, which is needed for normal amino acid, protein, lipid, and carbohydrate metabolism.
There are five main types of blueberry bushes that grow in the United States: lowbush, northern highbush, southern highbush, rabbiteye, and half-high.
The northern highbush is the most common, and both highbush varieties tend to be the most disease-resistant plants. There are also quite a lot of variations and hybrids within the specific berries that each bush produces. The berries can range in size from small to jumbo and in taste from sweet to tart.
Some recipes that include blueberries call for the blueberries to be dusted in flour prior to adding them to the batter. The thought is that this will prevent the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the batter (and causing bottom-heavy muffins or other baked goods). But doing this doesn't seem to make a significant difference with baked goods, and so it's not a necessary step.