Michigan is the number one state in highbush blueberry production with growers producing over 100 million pounds of blueberries every year (blueberries.msu.edu). These delicious and versatile berries lead the pack in antioxidant content. In fact, the blueberry has been called the “little blue dynamo” for its health promoting, disease preventing capabilities.
Meijer Local Program: Last year, working with 110 growers in 5 states, Meijer helped make an estimated $83 million annual economic impact to local communities. Meijer purchased 75 fruits and vegetables from local growers, including 3.5 million pints of Michigan blueberries.
BLUEBERRY NUTRITION FACTS
• Only 40 fat-free calories per 1/2 cup, blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C.
• Blueberries rank high in antioxidants that help protect against cancer, heart disease and other age-related diseases.
• Eating blueberries on a routine basis promotes the formation of new brain cells, supports cognition and learning, boosts mood, memory and focus, and may help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
• Researchers have found compounds in blueberries that help prevent urinary tract infection.
• Just one-half cup of blueberries helps meet the recommended 5 to 9 servings a day of colorful fruits and veggies.
HOW TO BUY BLUEBERRIES
When purchasing fresh blueberries, look for firm, plump, dry berries with smooth skins and a silvery sheen. Size doesn’t matter, but color does—reddish berries aren’t ripe, but can be used in cooking. Avoid soft or shriveled fruit, or any signs of mold. Containers with juice stains indicate that the fruit may be bruised.
HOW TO STORE BLUEBERRIES
Refrigerate fresh blueberries as soon as you get them home, in their original plastic pack or in a covered bowl or storage container. Wash berries just before use. Use within 10 days of purchase.
HOW TO FREEZE BLUEBERRIES
The secret to successful freezing is to use berries that are unwashed and completely dry. Discard berries that look bruised or shriveled. Place the berries, still in their original plastic pack, in a resealable plastic bag. Or, transfer berries to freezer containers or resealable freezer bags. The berries will freeze individually and you can remove just the portion you need. Remember to rinse them before using.
BLUEBERRY SERVING SUGGESTIONS
• Add blueberries to your favorite muffin recipe—about 1 cup for each batch of 12 muffins. Gently stir in the blueberries at the end (unthawed, if frozen).
• Dot pancake batter with blueberries as soon as batter has been poured on the griddle.
• Make a breakfast parfait by layering blueberries with flavored yogurt and granola cereal in a tall glass.
• Sprinkle blueberries and chopped walnuts over dressed mixed greens.
• Serve blueberries with sour cream or yogurt or with a scoop of cottage cheese.
Blue and Tasty Recipes!
Blueberry, Watermelon and Walnut Salad
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup Meijer olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup California walnuts, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper cut in bite-size pieces
6 cups Earthbound Farm® mixed baby greens
4 Nature Raised® skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 lbs.), grilled or sautéed until cooked through (see note, below)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F and spread walnuts in one layer on baking sheet. Bake until just toasted and aromatic, about 8 minutes; remove and let cool.
2. To prepare vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, honey, salt and pepper.
3. For the salad, in a medium bowl, combine watermelon, blueberries, walnuts and bell pepper; add half of the vinaigrette; toss to coat.
4. In a large bowl, toss greens with remaining vinaigrette.
5. Divide greens among 4 plates; top with fruit and walnut mixture.
6. Slice each chicken breast diagonally and serve with the salad.
Note: If desired, make a double recipe of the vinaigrette, and use half of it for marinating the chicken before cooking. Discard any vinaigrette used for marinating.
Nutrition Information (per serving): Calories: 570, Fat: 34g, Protein: 40g
Recipes source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
Grilled Salmon Flatbreads with Fresh Blueberry Salsa
Spice Blend (recipe below)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 skinless salmon fillets (8 ounces each)
4 pita breads or other flatbreads such Naan or Flat-Out bread
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 avocado, diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Meijer olive oil, divided
2 cups Greens such as Dole flat leaf spinach or Earthbound Farm® Arugula
1. Spice Blend: In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon each ground spices: coriander, cumin, fennel seed, cardamom and mustard seed; 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
2. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high.
3. Sprinkle 4 teaspoons of the spice blend and the garlic on both sides of salmon; grill just until opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side.
4. With 2 forks, flake the salmon.
5. Grill the pita until toasted, about 30 seconds per side; place on 4 plates.
6. In a medium bowl, toss the blueberries, avocado, cilantro, onion, jalapeño, lime zest and 1 teaspoon of the remaining spice blend with the lime juice and oil.
7. Top pitas with greens, salmon and blueberry salsa, dividing evenly.
Recipe Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Chef Jacob Peck, Garden Café - Chicago Botanic Garden
Homemade Blueberry Jam
Makes about 9 cups
6-1/2 cups fresh blueberries, coarsely chopped (about 5 pints whole blueberries)*
1 package (1.75 ounces) granulated fruit pectin for lower sugar recipes
4-1/2 cups sugar, divided
1. In a large saucepan, combine blueberries and 1/2 cup water.
2. In a small bowl, stir together pectin and 1/4 cup of the sugar.
3. Stir pectin mix into blueberries. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring mix to a rolling boil.
4. Add the remaining 4-1/4 cups sugar all at once to the blueberry mixture; return to a rolling boil. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly; remove from heat; skim off any foam; set aside until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes. Transfer to 1-cup freezer containers, filling to about 1/2 inch from the top; continue to cool at room temperature until jam has set; cover and freeze.
5. Thaw to serve; store any leftover jam in the refrigerator.
* Place whole blueberries in a food processor container; pulse until coarsely chopped. Or, place blueberries in a bowl; crush with a potato masher or pastry blender.
Blueberry-Ginger Jam: Stir 1 tablespoon ground ginger into sugar; proceed as directed above.
Blueberry-Cinnamon Jam: Add a cinnamon stick to the fruit mixture before boiling; remove before transferring to freezer containers.
Blueberry-Orange Jam: After boiling blueberry mixture, stir in 2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind.
Recipe source: Blueberry Classics, blueberrycouncil.org