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Seasonal Eats: Blueberries

The saying may be “as American as apple pie,” but blueberries happen to be one of the few fruits native to the United States.  That local longevity has undoubtedly hoped catapult them in terms of favorability (they rank second only to strawberries when it comes to overall berry consumption), and their superfood classification certainly doesn’t hurt either — in fact, they have one of the highest antioxidant capacities amongst all produce, spices and seasonings.

At their peak from May to June in growing regions on the West Coast, and July through August out here on the East, varieties include plump, hearty highbush berries, blush-colored, delicate rabbiteye, and scrappy, cold-tolerant lowbush, which produce small, intensely flavored, and wild-growing fruit.

Don’t miss the wild Maine blueberry pancakes at Clinton St. Baking Company, which have been regularly pegged as some of the best in the city, or the buttermilk blueberry gelati at Marea, for that matter!  Blueberry balsamic glaze coats pork belly nuggets and pickled watermelon at Sweet Chick, and dried blueberries dot the Berry Blue Salad at Bareburger, also comprised of spinach leaves, blue cheese and candied pecans, with an apple cider vinaigrette.

You can drink your berries at The Vandal, thanks to a cocktail of Cocchi Americano, cognac and a blueberry simple syrup, and of course, nothing is as classic as a perfect blueberry pie; get yours at Bubby’s, with a crumbly graham cracker crust and a dollop of crème fraiche.

When it comes to selecting blueberries, keep in mind that they need to be ripe when purchased — they don’t continue to ripen after harvesting.  On the other hand, be careful to avoid soft, watery or moldy blueberries. Stained or leaking containers are an indication of fruit past its prime.

Keep blueberries refrigerated and 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 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.  If you don’t go the freezing route, know that blueberries are highly perishable, so you should try to use them as soon as possible.

In addition to eating fresh (dolloped with whipped cream, sprinkled with sugar, tossed into fruit salads or eaten straight (ideally plucked straight off a bush!), you can easily incorporate blueberries into all matter of baked goods; think cookies and bars, muffins and scones, or cakes, pancakes and pies.  They’re a fun, unexpected topping for pizza (try with ricotta, reduced vinegar and prosciutto), and excellent in smoothies, shakes or spritzers; blend whole, or reduce with a simple syrup, and use the infused juice.  And don’t forget about savory options; you can make an herb-laded soup, a wholesome, rye or oat-based bread, a spicy salsa for chips, or a rich compote for roasted or grilled proteins, such as chicken, pork, beef, duck or lamb.

So honor America (and one of the summer’s sweetest gifts) by indulging in sapphire-bright blueberries all summer long.

Clinton St. Baking Company
4 Clinton St.
(646) 602-6263

Sweet Chick
178 Ludlow St
(646) 657-0233

170 7th Ave
(718) 768-2273

199 Bowery
(212) 400-0199

120 Hudson St
(212) 219-0666

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