Thursday, October 6, 2011

Harvest Ingredient 6: Blueberries

True highbush blueberries are exclusive natives to North America.  They are close relatives as the bilberry (which is found naturally in Europe and North America) and distant kin of the equally native Cranberry.

They are not a fall harvest food, they, in fact, ripen over the summer; but those of us fortunate enough to have them growing in our yard, they are such heavy yielders, that frozen berries are plentiful for fall harvest preparations.  

Blueberries are very good for you and, raw, are a high source of vitamin C.  In any form, raw or cooked, they are an excellent source of fiber.  Full nutritional information can be found here.  In olden times when native in the Northeast used to gather large quantities of these blackish berries in the summer, there was no other way to preserve them, than to dry them.  Indeed, they are still very good dried with raisins and go well in trail mixes and cereal.

Blueberries have a wide range of uses, they are most popularly known as a baking ingredient.  Everyone has heard of Blueberry Muffins.  Blueberry Pancakes are also widely popular.  Native restaurants in the northeast often serve Cornmeal Hot Cakes w/ Blueberry and Maple Syrup--it's a winning combination!    Other native recipes utilizing blueberries include:  Blueberry Frybread, Fried Fruit Pies with Blueberry Filling, Blueberry Pie Filling w Tapioca, Ices,  Cornmeal Berry Cobblers, Native Fruit Cookies, Blueberry Bread, and, when dried, in the traditional trail food Pemmican.  Traditional savory use in the native kitchen include their use in Succotash, as a Sauce For Wild Fowl including Turkey, mixed into Skillet Corn, dried blueberries get tossed into corn fritters and cornbreads and even in shellfish dishes.

Settlers folded them into grunts, slumps, buckles and fools.  The make a attractive and tasty ice cream.  They make a good addition to scones and fruit salads. They flavor yogurt and smoothies.  Blueberry Sauce goes great with crepes and French Toast.  They are nice in cakes, cheesecakes, waffles and various puddings.  And they make a great jelly or preserve (big in Scandinavia & Germany).  They've been made into syrups--they've even been used in brewing beer, as in Lambic. They even have some savory applications; I've seen recipes calling for them in specialty burgers, spinach and green salads & slaws, Risotto, fish dishes and with red meats like lamb or beef tenderloin, in chicken salads ...even Tacos!  In North Africa, they toss them into couscous with green onions!  The syrup makes a great additional to Japanese Teriyaki dishes--think chicken wings.  On the Fourth of July, they provide the blue in red/white/and blue dishes, as they mix very well with other fruit, such as apples.


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