The Summertime Blues

Everyone should have the summertime blues. No, I’m not referring to feeling down in the mouth; I’m talking about what you put IN your mouth–blueberries. Trust me; if you pop a delicious and nutritious blueberry in your mouth, you’ll probably hear the bluebird of happiness singing. July is National Blueberry Month, so what better time to learn about and enjoy this blue fruit?

So, where do blueberries come from? Sure you can buy them at the store, but let’s back up to the point of origin. Blueberries grow on a bush which is a flowering plant in the heath family. Blueberry bushes are related to the azalea and the rhododendron. While these relatives are known for their flowers, blueberry bushes are known for their fruit. Although some flowers are edible, I personally prefer to eat fruits; blueberries are a top choice for me.

Picking up an (expensive) basket of fruit is convenient, but picking your own blueberries at a u-pick-’em farm is way more fun.  Blueberries, which are native to North America, are typically ready for picking between June and August. Therefore, blueberry picking is something to add to your summertime fun “to do” list.

A great blueberry picking outfit involves wearing a hat. There are a couple of reasons why a hat is essential. First, you are picking berries in the summer when the sun is hot and beating down. A hat provides some protection and shade. Second, a hat will protect your head from bird bombs. Blueberries are a favorite snack of birds. Once birds have filled up their bellies with berries, you know what comes next. On the bright side, if you are into bird watching, you can kill two birds with one stone while picking blueberries.

Common sense tells you if blueberries are blue, you shouldn’t pick them if they are another color. But, of course, common sense isn’t all that common. Some pickers add berries that are partially green or red to their baskets. Nope. A ripe berry is one that is completely blue.

Don’t be taken aback if the berries have a white powdery substance on them. That’s a good sign. This white substance is called a bloom and indicates the berries are fresh. You wouldn’t want to make the effort to drive all the way out to the country to pick stale blueberries, would you? That would bloomin’ be ridiculous.

It’s also helpful to know your bushes. Wild blueberry bushes are called lowbush blueberries. Cultivated blueberry bushes are referred to as highbush blueberries. Rabbiteye blueberry bushes are grown in the Southeast U.S. This southern bush is found from the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast states, y’all.

Blueberries abound here in the good ole USA. The United States accounted for 40% of the world’s production in 2018. Oregon took top honor for being the state producing the most cultivated blueberries that year. Blueberries are big in New Jersey as well. Hammonton, NJ claims to be the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” and the blueberry is New Jersey’s official state berry. (Who says state legislators don’t conduct important business? Having to determine the official state berry is a weighty job…..)

So, how much should you pick if you go blueberry picking? One consideration, naturally, is the cost. Blueberries from the farm are way cheaper than from your local store, but you will still have to fork over some type of payment. Don’t pick more than you can pay for. A pound of blueberries is equal to about 2-3 cups. Depending on what you want to make with the blueberries (cobbler? ice cream? muffins?), consider how much is needed for the recipe.

It’s perfectly fine to pick more than you intend to eat in the next few days. Blueberries can be frozen for later use. Place the berries on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Put the cookie sheet in your freezer until the berries are frozen; once frozen, the berries can then be transferred to freezer bags. If you can’t follow these easy instructions, you have no business being in a kitchen.

For cooking-challenged folks, berries are the fruit for you. Why? There’s no need to cut them because they are small to begin with. Blueberries range in size from a small pea to a marble. They also do not need to be pitted or peeled. No knife-wielding skills are required.

Even if you don’t pick blueberries yourself, you definitely need to eat them. For one thing, blueberries are low calorie; there are only about 80 calories in a cup of blueberries. In fact, this fruit is 84% water. Who isn’t concerned about weight in the summer when (GASP!) it may be necessary to wear a bathing suit in public? Second, blueberries are especially high in fiber. You have to be living under a rock not to know it is important to have fiber in your diet. Additionally, blueberries have no cholesterol. And they actually taste sweet and delicious, so you can get fiber, low fat, and no cholesterol without sacrificing taste.

Blueberries are one of the most nutritious, antioxidant-rich types of fruit. Antioxidants prevent cell damage and protect against chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Hey, a blueberry might be seen as a little blue pill for everyone. Even Native Americans recognized blueberries for their medicinal value. Only they didn’t call them blueberries; they called them “star berries” because the five points of a blueberry blossom make a star.

Nevertheless, blueberries are not perfect. The fruit can leave blue stains on hands and clothing. But when life gives you lemons…The Shakers used blueberry juice to make paint for houses and furniture. If you want a natural Easter egg dye, boil some blueberries in water for about 20 minutes and then strain.

Clearly blueberries are berry good for you to eat, and picking them can provide a berry entertaining summer activity. Get on board during National Blueberry Month and enjoy this American fruit. You and your doctor will be be berry glad you did.

JUST WONDER-ING:

Have you ever been berry picking? Were you aware of the health benefits of eating blueberries? How do you like to eat blueberries? In muffins (the most popular muffin flavor according to the National Blueberry Council)? Added to yogurt?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “The Summertime Blues

  1. Love to go puck feesh anything. Haven’t had the opportunity to do anything this season because of house remodel. (Insert sad face here) Hoping next season to get back into everything. I miss canning and freezing and enjoying the fruits of my labor off season!!

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  2. Thanks for reading, Tammy. I enjoy picking fresh anything as well. Still enjoying the fruits of my labors and will for some time to come as I froze some of my pickings. Hope you retain your sanity throughout the house remodel.

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    1. Barely!! But it is almost over for a while. More to do but I have to take a break. Too much nouse and craziness!! LOL

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  3. I love that blueberries stay fresh longer than other berries. They are great in salads or overnight oats recipes! I’m a big fan of supporting local farms by going blueberry picking in the summer!

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