July is National Blueberry Month

Published 9:13 pm Saturday, July 12, 2008

Did you know that July is National Blueberry Month in the United States? Blueberries have long been recognized as a healthy addition to any diet. They are a good source of vitamin C and manganese as well as dietary fiber, low in sodium, virtually fat free and one cup of blueberries is a mere 80 calories. It was their antioxidant activity that put blueberries in the headlines in the late 1990s.

Blueberry product, mostly of the rabbit eye types, is increasing in Alabama. About 400 acres of blueberries are produced annually.

Harvesting Blueberries

Blueberries are ready for harvest beginning no sooner than three to four days after fruits become fully blue. For best results, blueberries should be harvested carefully when they are dry and fully ripe.

Handling Blueberries

Blueberries are not as perishable as most other berries. Use care in working with blueberries – they do bruise easily. Put blueberries in a plastic container and refrigerate them as soon as possible. Do not wash blueberries until you are ready to use them.

Freezing Blueberries

Only ripe, full flavored berries should be used for freezing. Blueberries do not have to be washed before freezing. The berries should be harvested when they are dry, and they should be washed after thawing.

If blueberries are washed before freezing, you should sort the berries then wash them quickly with cool water. After washing the berries, spread them on a metal tray in a single layer. Allow the berries to dry (they stick together if they are frozen wet). Then freeze them until they are solid. Finally, pack the berries in freezer containers, and label the containers. Blueberries may be frozen in containers or covered with cold, 40 percent syrup (3 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water).

Wave the flag cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix

1/3 cup applesauce

3 egg whites

3 cups fresh blueberries, divided

1 package (8 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 roll (from a 4.5 ounce box) red colored rolled fruit snack

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, beat cake mix with applesauce, egg whites and 1-1/4 cups of water for 30 seconds on low speed, then 2 minutes on medium speed. Spoon batter in 24 (2 1/2 inch) aluminum or paper lined muffin cups. Evenly divide 1 cup of blueberries onto tops of batter; do not stir. Bake cupcakes following package directions; remove to a wire rack and cool completely. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spoon onto cooled cupcakes; spread to edges. Unroll fruit snack and, with a sharp knife, cut into strips 1/8 inches wide by 2 inches long. On half of each cupcake, arrange strip, trimming each to fit. Arrange remaining 2 cups blueberries on the frosting on other halves of the cupcakes, about 10 blueberries per cupcake.

Blueberry Bubble Cones

3/4 cup prepared pudding

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, divided

6 ice cream cones

In a medium bowl, stir the pudding to loosen its consistency, if necessary; fold in 1 cup of the blueberries. Mound the mixture into the cones; dot the tops with the remaining blueberries; serve immediately.

Star Spangled Blueberry Parfaits

1 loaf (10 3/4 ounces) frozen low-fat pound cake

1/4 cup red fruit jam

2 containers (6 ounces each) low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 cups of fresh blueberries

With a serrated knife, cut 14 slices, 1/4 inch thick, from pound cake; return remaining cake to the freezer for another use. Spread 7 of the slices with jelly; top with plain slices; trim off and discard crusts. With a 1 1/4 inch star or other shape cookie cutter, cut a shape from four sandwiches; set stars aside. Cut sandwich trimmings and remaining whole sandwiches into 3/4 inch squares. Into four 8 ounce parfait glasses, place half the cake squared, half the blueberries and 1 1/2 containers of yogurt, dividing equally. Top with the remaining cake squares and blueberries. Spoon dollops of the remaining yogurt on top of each parfait; top with a star and serve.