Blueberry season is here at last, so here are our top tips on how to stow, prepare, and enjoy them to their max potential.
What is it about warm blueberries? Sure, they’re amazing fresh from the farmstand, and they have lots of lovely savory incarnations, but every spring I start champing at the bit for oozy warm blueberry pie with fat scoops of vanilla ice cream.
I’m not alone on that one. Blueberries are native to America, and according to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, their popularity has soared since their domestication began in the early twentieth century, when scientist Dr. Frederick Coville and grower Elizabeth White put their heads together to cultivate them. The berries occupy same botanic family as apples and pears, and you can find them growing in 38 of these United States. According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, the top producers are Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi and Indiana.
When you get a pint of local ones, they will almost always be tastier than those shipped from elsewhere—get them out of their carton or their plastic container, and don’t wash them. (They’re a little sturdier than strawberries, but not a lot.) Spread them out on a sheet pan lined with paper towels and pop them in the fridge loosely covered with plastic wrap, or put them in a plastic container and leave the lid on partially. You want to avoid having berries touching one another, if you can, and avoid having them wet. Some folks even recommend rinsing them in a dilution vinegar solution to prolong their life. And, naturally, you can freeze them.
I am obsessed with nectarine-blueberry combinations of any stripe, particularly in pies, crisps, crumbles, cobblers, and galettes. Blueberries love most other fruits, so they’re my go-to starter berry in smoothies with bananas, strawberries, mangoes, and peaches. They adore vanilla and cream, so they’re fabulous as a panna cotta topping, and they can handle white chocolate, too.
Don’t forget about savory dishes; they make a sensuous sauce for roast duck, are killer in a vinaigrette drizzled over spinach and goat cheese, and lovely in fizzy, lemony cocktails. (Just be sure to strain out the gummy pulp!) Make a compote to serve alongside cheese, cook them into a jam to slather on to biscuits, or eat them by the palmful as you go about the day.
Thank goodness for blueberry season.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel & Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen