TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Crunch. Pop. Savor. Biting into a fresh summer blueberry will cause an explosion in your mouth. Berry season is here and these beautiful, plump, indigo berries are filling produce stands across the country.
Blueberries, once known as “star-berries” because of the star-like shape on their skin, are one of the few fruits native to North America. They belong to the heath family, which includes cranberries, azaleas, and mountain laurel.
Considered a powerful super food, blueberries are loaded with vital vitamins and nutrients. Blueberries are an excellent source vitamins C, K, and E, as well as, fiber, manganese and other antioxidants. Studies have shown that blueberries, as part of a well-balanced diet, can reduce heart disease, cancer, cognitive degeneration, and lower cholesterol.
Blueberry season starts in mid-May for the southern states and moves north as the season progresses to the end of September. When selecting, lightly shake the blueberry container. Fresh berries should move around freely while moldy or rotten berries will clump together. Also, look for berries deep blue in color, firm and have a slight sheen to their skin.
Since blueberries are ripe and ready to eat when purchased, they can be stored at room temperature for up to two days and then should be stored in the refrigerator for about one week. For best results, pick through and remove any moldy, discolored, or smashed berries before storing. Berries should be washed right before using, not before storing, as the extra moisture will cause them to age more quickly. If freezing fresh blueberries for later use, wash and thoroughly dry berries. Then, place blueberries on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and place in the freezer until frozen. Transfer individually frozen berries to freezer safe packaging and freeze for up to 12 months.
With their unique flavor, texture, and health benefits, blueberries are a versatile food that can be incorporated into any diet using a variety of cooking techniques. Enjoy blueberries raw as a healthy snack, or added to salads, cereals and smoothies. Blueberries can be baked in pies, muffins, or pancakes; and even lend themselves to savory dishes such as this Chicken with Blueberry Barbecue Sauce.
— Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother’s kitchen. She knows how to get food on the table in a pinch while sticking to a budget. Currently, Chef Heather serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon onion, finely minced
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
3 Tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 (pound) chicken tenders/chicken breast
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Combine vinegar, sugar, onion, ginger, ketchup, and blueberries in a saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Meanwhile, sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook for 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.
Serve cooked chicken topped with blueberry barbecue sauce.