Berried Treasure

If you've ever expressed the common frustration that the most crave-worthy things to eat are invariably not good for us, all I can say is you've never feasted on a fistful of blueberries. They're as sweet and sublime as food gets. And they give utter lie to the myth that the most tempting foods are the unhealthiest by being about the most nutritious edibles you can possibly pop into your mouth.

It's true and getting truer as modern science explores the big potential of these little blue wonders: Blueberries are the ultimate superfood, a remarkably potent all-natural miracle that packs more of what we need into a single bite than most other foods can manage at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Fat-free blueberries are loaded with vitamins C and E, fiber, manganese, and are an arsenal of phytonutrients.

Researchers say that these and other compounds found in abundance inside blueberries protect against mental deterioration and loss of coordination; improve motor skills; enhance memory; promote urinary health; lower cholesterol; fight cardiovascular disease; increase fat burning and weight loss; safeguard the brain against stress and environmental toxins; protect against cancer and genetic changes; ease inflammation; improve vision; help prevent macular degeneration; and improve digestion.

And that's the short list. We're talking serious health food here, and to sweeten the pot even further, blueberries have one of the longest harvest seasons in all of fruitdom. That season is August in many parts of the country, and that makes this the perfect time to stock up so that your family can enjoy the benefits of a blueberry-stained diet year-round. From the grocery store to the farmers' market to local pick-your-own, go forth this weekend and seek firm blueberries with a deep blue-to-purple color and a whitish haze, which is actually a protective natural coating.

Berries sold in a container should bounce around and move freely when shaken. If they don't they're probably going soft. Store your fresh blueberries in the fridge. Check before you chill them, remove any damaged or over-ripe berries, and they'll last for at least a week in a covered container. If you're buying frozen berries, shake the bag a little to make sure they're not stuck together or iced over as this indicates poor handling. Then it's up to you. In my kitchen, we freeze 'em whole in season. (34 quarts at last count.)

It's simple, and frozen berries are about as versatile as fresh ones. Don't wash them (you don't want moisture to freeze on your berries, which will toughen their skin), just load them into quart bags and stick them in the freezer. And remember not to stack your bags until they're frozen in order to prevent squashing. Rinse your berries when you're ready to use them and then pile them on pancakes and cereal, and pack them in muffins and smoothies and anything else you can think of. You can also make jam and compote. Or dehydrate fresh blueberries in a 135-140° oven for 10-20 hours until they get leathery and look a bit like miniature grapes. It really doesn't matter in the end.

Fresh or frozen, canned or dried, cooked or raw, a simple half-cup or so of blueberries a day will deliver a nutritional boost it's almost impossible to beat, and they'll make you swoon doing it. They're my family's favorite fruit if not favorite food. And all you really have to do to get your own family to feel the same way about this ultra healthy berried treasure is start serving it! 

written by:

the Inkslinger

The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!