Blueberries are a favorite summer fruit with a sweet, sometimes tangy flavor. I like adding them to fruit salad or to breakfast cereal and sometimes they end up in a smoothie. Blueberries are easy to prepare, without having to slice or peel. Blueberries are just coming to the end of their picking season which can stretch from early July to early September.
Blueberries are perennial plants. The berry can range in size from small pea to small marble. When ripe, it is a deep blue with a white-gray waxy bloom over the berry’s surface that protects it from the sun. Blueberries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. Blueberries are also an excellent source of anthocyanins, compounds responsible for their purple-blue pigments. With high levels of anthocyanins, blueberries offer those who consume them protection from oxidative stress. Research shows that blueberries provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits which may protect the body from developing cardiovascular disease. In a 16-year study of over 34,000 women over age 55, researchers found that consuming blueberries and strawberries once a week showed lower death rates from cardiovascular and coronary artery disease. Blueberries are also being studied for their role in cognitive function and cancer prevention.
When purchasing blueberries, choose firm berries that have a lively blue color and whitish bloom. Avoid berries which appear dull or soft in texture. Ripe blueberries should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for about 3-6 days. Remove damaged blueberries before storing as this will prevent the spread of mold. Washing blueberries prior to use will protect the blueberry from degradation while in storage.
Here are some easy ways to add blueberries (and other fruits) to your day:
Keep a fruit bowl in the kitchen.
Make a fruit-based dessert.
Add blueberries to hot or cold cereal; as a topping for whole grain pancakes; or to smoothies, yogurt, or peanut butter toast.
Tropical fruit with mint and spices
Makes: 8 servings
1 large cantaloupe halved, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 large banana peeled and slices crosswise –toss banana slices with 1 teaspoon lemon juice to prevent discoloration
1 cup blueberries
2 large kiwi peeled and cut into ½ inch dices
1 mango peeled pitted and cut into ½ inch dices
1 papaya halved, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch dices
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
5 or 6 mint leaves
For the syrup:
1½ cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup dark honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
To make the syrup, in a saucepan, combine orange juice, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, the honey, the spices and the vanilla bean over high heat. Bring a boil, stirring to dissolve the honey. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Strain through a medium mesh sieve into a small bowl. Cover the syrup and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
In a large bowl, combined cantaloupe, banana, blueberries, kiwi, mango and papaya. Add lemon zest and chilled syrup and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 8 hours. To serve, spoon the fruit mixture into 8 bowls and garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately. Stack the mint leaves and roll up tightly length wise. Slice crosswise into this shreds.
Nutrition information: Per serving: 159 calories; 39 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; no fat; 2 grams protein.
Recipe from "The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook"