Blueberries are a member of the acid-soil loving heather family. They are native to the Eastern US seaboard but are now commercially grown world-wide. They are a juicy fruit with tiny seeds and a colourless juice, they have no stalk so there is no waste. Studies have shown that compared to other fruits and vegetables blueberries have the highest level of antioxidant activity. They have been shown to contain over forty compounds thought to have cancer-preventive properties.Antioxidants are thought to be beneficial in neutralising the effects of free radicals which attack healthy human cells and damage DNA. A substance that is found in the blueberry pigment is being studied for its links to improved eyesight and age-related disease. Blueberries are a source of Vitamins A and C as well as fibre. They freeze excellently in containers for long term storage.
Preparing and Using
Blueberries can be eaten raw but they can alsobe stewed or baked in cakes, tarts, pies and usedin a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes.They may change colour when cooked. Acids such as lemon juice and vinegar, cause their blue pigment to turn reddish. They also contain a yellow pigment which in an alkaline environment,such as mixing with too much baking soda, may give rise to greenish-blue berries.
To reduce the amount of colour streaking in cakes or muffins, lightly dust blueberries with flour and add at the last minute. For pancakes or waffles,add the dusted blueberries when the batter is being poured on to the pan or griddle to be cooked.
When buying fresh blueberries look for ones that are firm, dry, plump, smooth-skinned and relatively free from leaves and stems. Ripe berries are deep purple-blue to blue-black. Avoid soft watery fruit or dehydrated wrinkled berries. Store fresh blueberries in the fridge and wash the amount you need (in potable water) just before use.
At breakfast time you can serve blueberry pancakes, or bake them into French toast. They can be added to breakfast cereals such as muesli or can be made into breakfast bars, scones and muffins. Liquidise them with orange and strawberry juice and yoghurt to make a smoothie