Nature’s little dynamos, blueberries have been linked to improved vision, clearing arteries, enhanced memory, better weight control, stronger blood vessels and a variety of other benefits that make them perfect as a snack or as a regular meal.
Blueberries are harvested from June to September and can be used in many different ways from eating them raw to creating complicated dishes.
Oregon growers are expected to harvest more than 100 million pounds of blueberries this year, while Washington growers will bring in 110 million pounds.
Dr. Alan Schreiber, Washington Blueberry Commission executive director, says consumer awareness about the health benefits of blueberries is driving the increase in production.
Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, and are high in antioxidants, which protect against cancer, heart disease, and other age related diseases. Emerging Asian market options have also spurred the increase in production.
“Growers are keeping up with demand, making this the tenth record crop in a row,” Schreiber said.
“Growers have increased organic and conventional production on 13,000 acres, with 2,500 acres of organic – making Washington state the largest concentration of organic fresh blueberries in the U.S.
“Large plantings in eastern Washington have contributed to the increase, and almost all the new plantings are of high-yielding varieties planted in higher densities, with highly efficient drip irrigation,” he added.
Eating half a cup of blueberries a day contributes to a healthy diet, and can help people meet the USDA’s recommended goal of five to nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables, according to the Oregon Blueberry Commission.
In order to get the most out of blueberries, try some recipes from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (blueberrycouncil.org).
Blueberry-Stuffed French Toast
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar, divide
Pinch salt, optional
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed and drained, if frozen)
8 slices (1-1/4 inches thick) Italian bread
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Blueberry Orange Sauce
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. In a medium bowl beat eggs, peel, juice, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the salt until well blended. Pour into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a small bowl combine blueberries and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar; set aside. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut a 1-1/2-inch wide pocket in the side of each bread slice. Fill pockets with reserved blueberry mixture, dividing evenly. Place filled slices in egg mixture. Let stand, turning once, until egg mixture is absorbed, about 5 minutes on each side. Arrange bread on prepared baking sheet; sprinkle with almonds. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, turning slices after 10 minutes. Serve with Blueberry Orange Sauce.
Yield: 4 portions
Blueberry Orange Sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup orange sections (about 2 oranges)
In a cup combine sugar, cornstarch and salt; set aside. In a small saucepan bring orange juice and 1/4 cup water to a boil. Add blueberries and orange sections. Return to a boil; cook until liquid is released from fruit, about 2 minutes. Stir in sugar mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.
Yield: 2 cups
8 graham cracker squares (plain, cinnamon or chocolate)
4 teaspoons peanut butter *
1 banana, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Spread each graham cracker with 1/2 teaspoon peanut butter. On 4 of the graham crackers, place 4 banana slices and top with blueberries, dividing equally. Cover with remaining graham crackers and press gently. Yield: 4 snack-size portions
- Other spread options include: plain or flavored whipped cream cheese; whipped honey; soy nut butter; almond butter; or cashew butter.
Savory Blueberry Pizza
1 pound pizza dough
1-1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
4 ounces diced pancetta (can also use bacon or ham if pancetta is not available), cooked and drained
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Lightly flour a work surface.
Pat and stretch dough into a 10 x 14-inch oval; place on a large baking sheet.
With a fork, pierce dough in several places.
Leaving a 1-inch border, sprinkle dough with half the mozzarella, the gorgonzola, pancetta and red onion.
Bake until crust is golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.
Sprinkle blueberries and remaining mozzarella over pizza; bake until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer.
Remove from oven; top with basil and pepper.