Blueberries are a rather maligned fruit. Until recent years you couldn’t even buy them in a supermarket. All you could find were products with blueberries in them. That all changed when blueberries were found to be a “superfood.” Who would have thought that the lowly blueberry would be near the top of the heap in antioxidants. They’re also high in vitamin C, B complex, vitamin E, vitamin A, copper, selenium, zinc, and iron.
Not only that, there have been studies that show that blueberries may protect the brain from aging diseases like Alzheimers. One study actually showed improvement in cognitive tests with just two weeks of high doses of blueberry juice. Now that’s a prescription I could follow.
North Carolina, where I live, is one of the biggest producers of blueberries in the nation. We have the perfect highly acidic soil and climate they seem to like. One of the first perma-crops we planted on our property were blueberries and this year they are really coming into their own. We have blueberries the size of quarters and an abundance of them.
Right now we’re just eating them fresh with a little maple yogurt; occasionally pairing them with strawberries. However, fresh blueberries are delicious in muffins and other quick breads, and we’ve made an amazing blueberry syrup by simply combining fresh berries and sweetener (Sucanat for us). It isn’t as thick as if you cook it, but it retains all those amazing nutrients and antioxidants.
One important thing to note is that organic blueberries have even higher amounts of nutrients. Domestic non-organic blueberries are listed as number 10 on the the dirty dozen list, so keeping them organic keeps you away from as many as 50 pesticides and give you even more of those desirable antioxidants!
Check to see if you can successfully grow blueberries in your area and plant a hedge of blueberries. They are attractive plants and will feed you better than a hedge of hollies will any day!
Just want to give you a heads up. I’m going to be offering a free demonstration of my “Cooking by Feel” method of food preparation on June 12th, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. It will be held at The Creative Center in Greensboro, NC. You can see the calendar listing. I discovered I have a knack for being able to just grab things out of the fridge, willy-nilly, and end up preparing a delicious dish or meal. My goal, through the demonstration and classes, is to get people eating more freshly prepared food, with minimal time involvement, and make it so tasty they won’t want to go back to pre-prepared or fast foods.
I don’t have a clue what I’m going to fix, because what I’ll do is, the day of the event, I’ll grab stuff out of my fridge, load it up, take it to the site where the demo is, and I’ll prepare one or two dishes for people to taste.
I will make sure I have a wide selection of my most used herbs, as well as all my food fixers. You know those things that you add when you made it too salty, bitter, sour, etc. Other than that it will just be whatever whim I happen to have that day.
These demos are a lot of fun and you get to taste whatever concoction I come up with. I hope you’ll join me as I venture into in-person opportunities to learn healthy gourmet meal preparation.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Solonynko.
My schedule has been such that I haven’t been able to shop at local farmer’s markets for quite some time. Recently I decided I needed to change that schedule and get back to supporting local food production.
Just today, after I’d made that decision, my husband showed me a documentary that was really interesting, but also a little disturbing. In the PBS series “America Revealed” near the beginning of episode one – Food Machine – Yul Kwon visits the Shasta dam in northern California. He says that because of this one dam California is able to produce 1/2 of all food consumed in the USA. He also stated that if that dam were compromised in any way 1/2 of all food in America would stop being produced. There would be no water to do it.
Now I’d already decided to start buying locally, as much as possible. Now I want to call you to do the same. If you have a local farmer’s market, or CSA (consumer support agriculture), please start buying as much of your food from there as you possibly can. If we start supporting local food production, if something should happen to the dam in California we’ll be in a lot better shape.
That’s an important reason for buying your foods locally, but here are some others. The food is much fresher. If I put a zucchini bought at the store and a zucchini I’ve picked fresh from my garden in the refrigerator at the same time, guess which one lasts longer? Well, it seems pretty obvious that something fresh picked should last longer, however, I’ve had zucchinis still fresh in my fridge after 3 weeks, if they came from my garden. I’ve never had one last more than a week from the store.
This also means more nutrients, as some nutrients degrade as time passes. Locally grown food doesn’t have to travel long distances, so different varieties that have better taste can be grown, supporting our seed biodiversity. Plus they can grow unusual varieties if they know they have a market for them.
You’ll also know what has gone into growing your food. Now I wouldn’t walk up to a farmer and ask him how he grows his stuff. Get to know him a little, let him see that you’re not a threat (many farmer’s see a stuffy city person as not having any understanding about what they’re up against). Just casually ask about their thoughts on organic growing, etc., be non-threatening, and certainly don’t try to convert them when you first meet them.
Of course if you have some local organic growers you can always vote with your money. If non-organic farmers see that the organic farmers sell out faster and they sell more, then they’ll be interested, as that means a higher dollar to work ratio. I don’t know any businessman who’s not interested in that.
Of course growing your own and sharing your over abundance if you have it is the best way, but not all of us have the time, money, or space to do that. The next best thing is to try and buy what you need from within 100 miles of your home. I’m working on that.
Staying on the theme of apples, since the new crop is coming in now, I’d like to share with you an unusual, but very tasty apple snack. I was told about this idea by a lovely Indian woman when I was in the local international store picking up some spices. She was buying black salt. I had no idea what it was, but it looked interesting, and I like to try interesting things.
In its solid form it looks almost black in color, thus the name. When it is broken into smaller pieces it has a dark pink cast, and the ground salt is pale pink in color. Black salt has an interesting flavor, because of its sulfur content. The sulfur also contributes to its cooked egg smell.
Now, when you read this you may think it sounds disgusting, but surprisingly enough the combination of salt and egg are pretty good. It also has a slightly bitter flavor, too, which becomes pronounced if you use too much, so use it sparingly.
I was told that the lady’s son loved shredded apples with black salt sprinkled over them. He would come home from school and beg for her to fix him some. I thought this was really strange, since I had only ever smelled the salt and not tasted it.
I bought a small amount, took it home, and ground it into a powder in my blender. Take note, it is very hard and will make a huge racket and take some time to powder it. I then used the food processor to make up some shredded apples and sprinkled a tiny bit on one bite. It was fantastic. The combination of the sweet-tart apples I love and the salt, with its slightly sulfury-bitter taste, was an amazing taste.
Black salt is now a regular part of my spice rack. I’ve used it in many savory dishes, and every fall enjoy many bowls of apples and black salt.
You can get it at many international and Indian food stores. If it comes in powdered form I would purchase that, as the chunks are really hard on the blades of a blender and it is hard to get it evenly ground.
So, next time you’re looking for something unusual to snack on, pick up some black salt and your favorite apples, and give it a try.
Do you believe in love at first sight? Well I experienced it the first time I bit into a Pink Lady apple. I grew up in the time of Delicious, Delicious and more Delicious apples. I always thought they tasted so bland. Every once in awhile we’d get some Winesaps. Oh, were they delicious compared to the Delicious.
So, what’s in a name? When it comes to fruit, everything. Over the decades, as demand for fruits and vegetables have grown, farmers have chosen to grow varieties that have a long self life. It didn’t matter how they tasted. As time went on many of the traditional varieties fell into disuse, because they couldn’t travel across country or stay in cold storage for months.
Today, though, there’s a resurgence in different varieties showing back up on the shelves. First it was Fuji, MacIntosh, Jonagold and Gala. These were all a vast improvement over Delicious, but the day I tasted a Pink Lady I knew I’d found my apple. Tangy, juicy and very crisp, just the way I like them.
Now other fruits are following suit. You find all different kinds of pears. The Comice pear, which has been my favorite since childhood, is only available at one store where I live and only for about 1 month, but for that month I revel in the sweetest, juiciest, most aromatic pear ever grown. The juice will run down your arms and face. It is eaten soft and would be a delectable dessert pear.
Even oranges are going “gourmet” with blood oranges and Cara Cara showing up in mainstream grocery stores these days.
People are voting with their money. They’re driving us back to the small farmer who can deliver tasty produce to our local markets. That way they don’t have to hold in cold storage for 6 months or more. We can take them home and eat them right after they’ve been picked. Just think, not only supreme taste, but much more nutrition, too.
Contribution by Stevie Kirby
My Mom and Dad have run a roadside vegetable /fruit stand for years and are known throughout their area for having the freshest produce around. They have been seeing an increasing amount of business from people just passing through the area, in addition to their regular local customers. They have always done all their business in cash transactions, or “on credit” with their local customers. However, many of the tourists who have stopped at their stand when passing through the area do not carry cash and they were stumped as to how to deal with this situation. I suggested they do some research at http://bank-card-processing.com to find out the best way to solve the problem. They found a way to accept credit cards from their customers and their business has grown by leaps and bounds. They have even seen an increase in the amount of items being purchased by local folks who can purchase with credit cards. Even though my folks are what I would call “old school,” I’m proud of them for realizing technology could make life easier for them.
- Plain yogurt or sour cream
Wash and place strawberries in a bowl. Put yogurt in a bowl. Put Sucanat, or other whole sugar in another bowl.
To eat pick up a strawberry, dip in yogurt then in sweetener. Munch to your hearts content!
Yogurt with Strawberries and Blueberries
- Plain yogurt
- Cinnamon or Chinese 5 Spice (opt)
- Vanilla extract (opt)
You can make this up a bowl at a time or mix all the ingredients in a larger bowl and serve it.
Wash, trim any bad spots and trim tops off strawberries. Wash and remove any stems from blueberries. Place both in a bowl. Add enough yogurt to coat them well. Stir in sweetener to your liking. Then sprinkle a scant ¼ tsp of either of the spices, for single serving, or 1 tsp for a large bowl. Again, just ¼ tsp of vanilla extract for a single serving, 1 tsp for a large bowl. Enjoy the slight tanginess of the yogurt with the sweetness of the fruit, mingled with the exotic flavor of the spices and extract.
Spring begins the bountiful harvest of locally produced foods. Many times you can buy these products at local farmer’s markets. One thing that is even more fun, though, is to take the family to the farm directly and pick the fruit yourself. You can often find a list of local u-pick farms on the Internet.
This is a fantastic activity to do with children that are old enough to understand how to know when fruit is ripe, probably around 6 to 8 years old. They’ll learn about where food really comes from, get outdoors instead of in front of the TV or computer, and you’ll get to eat some of the best produce you can find.
Here’s a test to try. Buy strawberries from the store, then from the farmer’s market, then go pick a batch. In my experience, the ones directly from the farm are far superior to those purchased at a farmer’s market. There’s no comparison with the pitiful facsimiles grocery stores sell. This is probably because they are going directly from the field to your house, without any transportation or sitting on the shelf time.
Call ahead to make sure they have fruit available. Dress appropriate for the weather. If it is sunny hats, UV protection and sometimes bug protection may be needed. You won’t even need buckets, they’ll provide them for you.
If you aren’t able to do the picking yourself, they usually have some ready picked for just a little extra. Not everyone can stoop or stretch or stand as long as is needed to pick a full bucket.
The only better place to get your fruit, your own yard!
So you don’t have to break your budget to keep eating, here are some foods that are deemed safe to eat without buying them organic. Again the rule of thumb is, if you peel it to eat it, then it is safe to buy non-organic.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Kiwi fruit
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet Onion
This of course is not an exhaustive list because there are lots of foods missing here, some of them very commonly eaten like lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and carrots. If you can’t buy the unrated foods organic, maybe you can buy them at the local farmer’s market, or grow them yourself.