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Blueberries are the Perfect Summertime Indulgence






A blue food is a perfect pairing with a blue, summer sky. Well, technically blueberries are purple, but they're sweet and refreshing, which is perfect for a warm day! We're officially in the heart of blueberry season in North America, and the season starts in April, so the berries are ripe and ready to go to become a treat for the summer.

Origins

Blueberries originated in North America too. Native Americans called them Star Berries because they believed the Great Spirit sent blueberries to Earth and marked them with a star on the bottom. They domesticated the berries and used them in stews, pounded them into jerky, and even used the juice to help with coughs. Blueberries were also probably a part of the Thanksgiving meal in several types of dishes, which only points to their versatility.

Recipe Ideas

Recipe Ideas
Blueberries are the perfect summer berry to use in baking because they're so multifaceted. Add a bit of sugar and water in a pot on low and you've got a sweet compote, or, if you prefer sour, add some lime juice instead of sugar and the compote will be more tart. I recommend putting either version over vanilla ice cream, but you can do so much more with just the compote. Put it through a strainer and pour it into lemonade to make a refreshing blueberry beverage that's picture perfect for a sunny, summer day. And there are even more options:
  • - Stir it into yoghurt
  • - Ladle it over oatmeal
  • - Use it as crepe filling
  • - Freeze it in place of ice in a smoothie
  • - Mix with granola
  • - And more!
By using blueberries as a salad topping or a salsa ingredient, they can even be incorporated into savory dishes that are summer-barbecue worthy. Blueberries with bacon bits and spinach can dress up a pizza or be great additions to a chicken sandwich. If that's not fancy enough, homemade blueberry mayonnaise is delicious as well. You can make these berries even less sweet by making a sauce with balsamic vinegar to add plenty of savory tang.

Blueberries fit into so many different categories of cooking and baking, including mixology. They can be muddled into a mojito, juiced into a cosmopolitan for a sweeter variation, or added to a Moscow mule for a fresh take. And since it's hard not to get fancy with berries as good as these, you can make a compote with tarragon, then strain it into a glass of chilled, bubbly wine. Sipping this on a summer day could almost make you forget about the heat! If you're interested in more involved baking, you can make a blueberry cobbler, blueberry muffins, or blueberry pie. Pie is a great versatile way to use this fruit. The filling can be sweet or tart, like compotes, and I love using cookie cutters with fun shapes to make the top crust if I don't feel like taking the time for a lattice. You can find the recipe on foodal.com for a great pie that uses a delicious, tart filling and an easy pie dough from scratch.

Simplicity is good too! On a hot summer day, a handful of frozen blueberries can be a great treat that you can share with your dog. Putting yogurt and blueberries into ice cube molds and freezing also makes a good snack that can cool the two of you down. If you really want to pamper your pooch, you can make oatmeal blueberry biscuits for him. Blueberries contain lots of Vitamin C and antioxidants that both you and your pup can benefit from as well.

Health Benefits

In addition to having some of the highest antioxidant levels among fruits and vegetables, blueberries also protect against DNA decay, which slows visible aging. They can also help lower blood pressure, which, in turn, can provide a lower risk of heart disease. Because of the low sugar content compared to other fruit, consuming these berries may have anti-diabetes effects. Blueberries can maintain brain function and improve memory, which can be especially comforting for people with Alzheimer's Disease in their family history.

Growing

Growing
Blueberries have so many benefits in taste and health, but they can get rather pricey if you simply can't get enough of them. Luckily, they're easy to grow. Of course, you can grow them in a garden, but if you don't have the space, you can grow them in a pot if they get enough sun. Full sun is best, but half sun/half shade is doable too. Since blueberries are a bush, they need a rather large pot (about 12 inches in diameter) and I suggest the lowbush variety to keep the size under control. Blueberries do well in compost, but if you don't have access to it, they will also be happy with strawberries planted at the base to keep the soil cool and damp.

When it comes time to harvest them, be smart! Unlike most other fruit, blueberries don't ripen once they have been picked, so wait until they have been blue for several days. The whole bush won't ripen at once, so you'll get some every day during the summer; it's enough for a perfect addition to breakfast, but you'll have to stockpile for a larger recipe. However, this method can save a lot of cash if you have a little patience. Homegrown blueberries are also healthier because you get to control what comes into contact with your berries. You can decide what pesticide to use, if any, or if you prefer losing a few berries to bugs for organic produce.

Summer Perfection

Blueberries are the quintessential summer fruit because in addition to bursting with flavor, they're one of the healthiest fruits you can eat in terms of sugar content and antioxidants. Most people think that these berries only belong in sweet dishes, but that doesn't even graze the surface of their potential. For the desperate artist, the skins can even be used to make paints, but they can shine in cocktails and savoury dishes as well. Be sure not to underestimate the flavorful addition of blueberries to a warm summer day!

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