Red, white, and blueberry!
July is National Blueberry Month, so take advantage of the fresh blueberries for sale at the Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market and stock up.
The blueberry is native to the northeastern states and provinces of North America. Its wonderful taste and high nutritional values have led to the development of varieties of blueberries which can be grown in western and southern states, Australia, and South America. Farmers market shoppers can find cultivated blueberries at Southern California markets year round.
Wild blueberries abound in the traditional eastern seaboard blueberry capitols: Maine produces 25% of all the wild blueberries harvested, and Canadian First Nations blueberry barrens in Ontario are well-known. These low growing bushes produce smaller, intensely deep blue berries full of flavor and color. Wild blueberries grow naturally from Canada as far south as West Virginia and west to Michigan. The American huckleberry and bilberry, a blue bush berries native to Northern Europe, are members of the same plant family: vaccinium. The huckleberry, which has deep blue flesh as well as blue skin, has never been grown commercially.
Blueberries themselves were not produced commercially until the last century. We have a farmer’s daughter to thank for our blueberry muffins and pancakes. Born in 1871, Elizabeth White grew up on her father’s cranberry farm in New Jersey. She developed an interest in commercial agriculture. Starting in 1911, she offered cash prizes to local wild berry pickers for bushes producing large berries. White’s collaboration with Frank Coville of the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service led to the development of the first commercial blueberry in 1916: a high bush variety.
Blueberry bushes range in height from four inches to 10 feet. High bush blueberries produce the vast majority of fresh berries found at market. Michigan, which also boasts a hardy winter climate, has supplanted Maine as the largest U.S. Producer of blueberries. But locavores – people who are committed to eating locally whenever possible – don’t have to forgo the pleasures and health benefits of this all-American berry.
Shoppers at the Tuesday afternoon Culver City Farmers Market can pick up pints of California blueberries grown on southern highbush blueberry plants, thanks to work done at the University of Florida and North Carolina State University in breeding highbush cultivars with local bushes suited for milder winters.
Fresh blueberries are higher in vitamins A and C than their frozen or dried counterparts. All are an exceptionally good source of antioxidants, containing twice as many per gram than spinach and three times as many per gram as oranges. Antioxidants have been shown in scientific studies to help neutralize harmful “free radicals” that can lead to cancer and other age-related diseases. The soluble fiber found in blueberries, pectin, has been shown in several research studies to be effective in lowering cholesterol.
One of my favorite breakfasts during blueberry season is to toss a handful of juicy, plump berries into traditional rolled oatmeal as it is cooking. Friends of mine frequently serve a blueberry-greek yogurt parfait for a simple desert. They’ll put some whole milk greek yogurt into a parfait glass, top it with blueberries and sprinkle granola on the top. The Stoneage stand at the Culver City Farmers Market has wonderful, fresh, small-batch granolas which will make this simple desert a treat.
Have you ever had blueberry pancakes made from scratch? If you have, you’ll never go back to packaged pancake mixes again. Here is a recipe for buttermilk blueberry pancakes modified from Martha Stewart by a pancake-loving food blogger. The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council developed the pork roast with blueberry onion sauce recipe as well as the citrus blueberry sorbet recipe which follows.
Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes
(makes 16 4 inch pancakes)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, separated
3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing griddle
1 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat an electric griddle to 375°F, or place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then gently stir into beaten egg yolks. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 2 tablespoons melted butter, and whisk to combine. Do not overmix. The batter should have small to medium lumps. Test the griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, the griddle is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush a small amount of the melted butter onto the griddle. Pour about 1/2 cup of batter in pools 2 inches apart. Arrange a handful of blueberries over the cooking pancake, pressing them in slightly. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over. Cook until golden on bottom and remove to warm plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Blueberry-Onion Sauced Pork Tenderloin
3/4 to 1 pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 medium onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup port wine or sweet sherry
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
Preheat broiler. Broil pork, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove to a platter; cover to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add onions, salt and pepper; cook until onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Add sugar; cook until onions are caramelized, 3 minutes longer Add port, balsamic, blueberries and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Thinly slice pork and serve with sauce.
Yield: 4 servings
Blueberry Citrus Sorbet
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons blueberry preserves or jam, divided
1 pint orange sorbet, slightly softened
1 pint lemon or other citrus sorbet, slightly softened
1 cup fresh blueberries
Line the bottom and sides of an 8 x 4 -inch loaf pan with a double layer of waxed paper, folding the paper to fit smoothly. In a small bowl, stir together walnuts and 1/4 cup of the blueberry preserves; set aside. Spoon orange sorbet into the lined pan, smoothing the top to make an even layer. Spread the reserved walnut-preserves mixture evenly over the orange sorbet. Spoon the lemon sorbet evenly over the preserves and smooth the top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Freeze several hours or overnight. Just before serving, in a medium bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons preserves until smooth; fold in fresh blueberries. Invert the cake onto a chilled serving plate. Remove the pan and waxed paper; spoon about one-fourth of the blueberry mixture down the center of the cake. Cut the cake into 8 (1-inch) slices. Serve on chilled dessert plates; top each slice with a spoonful of the remaining fresh berry mixture. Serve immediately.
YIELD: 8 portions