Baby Blues

This month's harvest brings antioxidant-packed blueberries.

The summer’s first bonanza of sweet, tart blueberries is on the way—the first harvest brightens local farmers’ markets later in the month. It’s also the start of the season in major blueberry-producing regions from Maine to Michigan (the latter is the country’s largest producer).

With different varieties ripening cyclically from late-June all the way through September, blueberry lovers can indulge for months on end. Since they keep longer than most summer berries—up to a week when stored well, unlike strawberries, which spoil within a day or two—it’s easy to keep a constant supply on hand.

For today’s abundance, thanks go to Elizabeth White, the daughter of a cranberry grower from Whitesbog, N.J., who helped to develop the first cultivated blueberry variety in 1916. Before that, bringing home a bucket of blueberries required a labor-intensive day of picking over spiky brambles. Of course, that didn’t stop Native Americans from enjoying the wild variety of the fruit, an indigenous plant that scientists believe dates back at least 13,000 years. Through clever preservation techniques, such as drying the fruit in the sun and grinding it into powder to flavor stew, porridge and meat, blueberries remained a part of the Native American diet all year long. The Indians here revered the fruit for its medicinal purposes, as did early Europeans, who used the fruit to make a tea to help women relax in childbirth and a syrup to cure coughs.
Today, the beneficial qualities of blueberries are not myth but fact—studies show that they’re packed with antioxidants, which combat free radicals and help protect against the development of cancer, heart disease and degenerating brain function. The rich flavor of blueberries certainly makes it easy to do something good for your health.

A classic addition to muffins and pancakes, blueberries also are delicious paired with other summer fruit, as in a cobbler with blueberries and ripe nectarines; even summer salads can benefit from a burst of blueberry flavor (see recipe below). There’s also the simple pleasure of eating them fresh—when you devour a handful of freshly picked blueberries, you know that summer is finally here.

U-Pick Berries

Later this month, you can pick as many blueberries as your fingers will let you at local farms and orchards.
• Soergel Orchards: Call ahead for pick-your-own blueberries. Homemade blueberry and blueberry-peach pies are sold in the bakery. 2573 Brandt School Road, Franklin Park; 724/935-1743, soergels.com.
• Trax Farms: Call ahead for specific times to pick-your-own blueberries throughout the growing season, from June through August. In season, the bakery offers homemade blueberry pies. 528 Trax Road, Union Township, Washington County; traxfarms.com.


Selecting and Storing Blueberries

• Seek out blueberries that are firm and smooth and have a skin with a silvery, waxy bloom. Color (not size) is a sign of maturity—look for deep purple-blue to blue-black berries (reddish berries aren’t ripe). The fruit doesn’t have much of a scent, but if you’re buying a basket of berries in the market, a quick sniff can help detect any sign of mold; juice stains on the container can indicate bruised fruit. Avoid berries that are shriveled or hard.
• As soon as you get blueberries home, refrigerate them in their original plastic pack or in a covered container. They generally keep up to a week in the refrigerator. To prepare, pull out any stems and rinse the berries in cold water just before using.
• Take advantage of summer’s bounty by freezing some fresh blueberries to use later in smoothies, pancakes or baked goods. To freeze, make sure the berries are completely dry and place them into re-sealable plastic bags in the freezer. Use within six months. They freeze individually, so it’s easy to take out whatever portion you need. Then simply rinse the berries just before using.

Salad with blueberry, feta and almonds:

This delicious fruit, cheese and nut salad is pretty enough to serve to guests, and makes a light but
satisfying summer lunch. Look for authentic Greek feta made with sheep’s milk, which is more flavorful than domestic types made with cow’s milk.

Rinse and dry the leaves from 1 head of butter lettuce and tear into bite-sized pieces. To make the vinaigrette, combine 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar and 1 teaspoon honey, then whisk in 1/3 cup of good-tasting olive oil. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toast 1 cup of slivered blanched almonds until lightly browned. Crumble 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) of sheep’s-milk feta cheese. Stem 1 cup of blueberries, rinse in cold water and dry well.
In a large salad bowl, toss the lettuce with 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette. Divide the salad among 4 large plates, and divide the toasted almonds, feta and fresh blueberries equally among them. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

‘The Good Wife’s’ Zach Grenier Appears on the Pittsburgh Stage

‘The Good Wife’s’ Zach Grenier Appears on the Pittsburgh Stage

Grenier on playing the dream role of Willy Loman, coming to Pittsburgh and performing at the renowned Pittsburgh Public Theater.
Enjoy a Cocktail to Help Preserve Pittsburgh's Historic Murals

Enjoy a Cocktail to Help Preserve Pittsburgh's Historic Murals

The nearly 80-year-old murals by Maxo Vanka show an immigrant's’ perspective on important issues.
‘The Chainsmokers’ Forgot Spellcheck for Pittsburgh Concert

‘The Chainsmokers’ Forgot Spellcheck for Pittsburgh Concert

A mistake at the end of the duo's sold-out show earned them some good-natured teasing on social media.
So Where are the Best 'Burbs in the Pittsburgh Area?

So Where are the Best 'Burbs in the Pittsburgh Area?

Pittsburgh-based Niche crunched a whole lot of data to rank the best suburbs in the country, the state, and around here.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

The latest restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group brings Texas-style smoked meats and more to Downtown.
Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Go subterranean at Laurel Caverns, the largest cave in Pennsylvania.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


‘The Good Wife’s’ Zach Grenier Appears on the Pittsburgh Stage

‘The Good Wife’s’ Zach Grenier Appears on the Pittsburgh Stage

Grenier on playing the dream role of Willy Loman, coming to Pittsburgh and performing at the renowned Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Scratch Food & Beverage Has a New Executive Chef

Brandon Blumenfeld introduces an American gastropub menu at the Troy Hill bar.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Dive Bar & Grille Expands to South Side, Remains Charming

Dive Bar & Grille Expands to South Side, Remains Charming

The latest outpost of the small, Wexford-born chain isn't flashy, but offers good beer and grub.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
A Life Well Lived: Dan Rooney's Humility and Humanity

A Life Well Lived: Dan Rooney's Humility and Humanity

Delivering the Homily at Rooney's funeral, Cardinal Donald Wuerl acknowledged a longstanding Rooney philosophical belief: “You can get anything done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Pittsburgh on a Plate

Pittsburgh on a Plate

The way to a beer lover’s heart is mapped out on notNeutral’s plate, which highlights Pittsburgh breweries (and other points of interest) across the city.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
A Refreshing Action Flick and a Redundant Thriller

A Refreshing Action Flick and a Redundant Thriller

Reviews of "Free Fire," "Unforgettable" and "The Promise," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Planning Proposals: The Element of Surprise

Planning Proposals: The Element of Surprise

This couple’s proposal story really takes the cake.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Rare Plants, Accessories, Up for Grabs at 2017 Garden Marketplace

Rare Plants, Accessories, Up for Grabs at 2017 Garden Marketplace

Hosted by the Penn State Master Gardeners, the free event, which includes the local daffodil society’s annual show, features exclusive and hard-to-find flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetable plants and other garden accessories from a variety of vendors.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

A-Rod to Talk Baseball and Steroids at Slippery Rock

Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Alex Rodriguez also is one of the league's more controversial stars.

Comments