From South America’s açai to Asia’s goji, exotic berries have created a stir in the nutrition world because of their antioxidant capacities and potential health benefits. But the humble blueberry is giving the exotics a run for their money.
Research supports this US native’s ability to promote cardiovascular and nervous-system health, to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and to provide protection against cancer. In addition to antioxidants, blueberries also contain significant reserves of fiber, manganese and vitamins C and K.
All this positive press has helped make the blueberry second to only the strawberry in popularity among consumers in the United States. More blueberries are grown here commercially than anywhere else during the April-to-October growing season, supplemented by fruits grown in South America during the US winter months. Blueberries are also available canned, dried and frozen.
When buying fresh blueberries, look for a rich, deep color with a silvery sheen; they should be firm, plump and dry. Refrigerate them, in the original package or in a covered container, for up to 10 days. Don’t rinse blueberries until you’re ready to use them. Extra berries can be frozen in resealable freezer bags for up to six months. Thawed blueberries can be stored in the fridge for no more than three days.
Old-fashioned blueberry recipes often call for considerable amounts of sugar. However, modern diners have learned to enjoy the berry’s rich sweet-tart flavor au naturel whether eaten fresh as a snack, as an addition to yogurt or oatmeal, with cheese or in smoothies. Blueberries also shine in light salads and wraps, as the basis of sauces for fish or meat, tossed with couscous, in cocktails—
even as a topping for pizza. When baking with blueberries, minimize streaking by folding them in gently at the end of the mix cycle. A batter with too much baking soda will turn them gray; use a little lemon juice to restore vibrant color.
Looking for a healthy pop of color and flavor in your favorite dishes? The all-American blueberry fills the bill nicely.
Blueberry Chicken Salad Wraps
3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups diced cooked chicken
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
6 whole-wheat tortillas (6”)
6 large lettuce leaves
1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, celery and salt. Gently stir in chicken and blueberries.
2. Warm the tortillas by placing a damp paper towel on a microwave-safe plate and topping with a tortilla. Continue to alternate damp towels and tortillas, and top the finished stack with damp towel. Microwave on high until hot, 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Place warm tortillas on a counter and top each with a lettuce leaf. Scoop about 1/2 cup of chicken-blueberry salad onto each leaf.
4. Roll each tortilla into a cylinder and cut in half. Secure with toothpicks, if desired.
Serves 12. Analysis per serving: 110 calories, 9g protein, 3g fat (>1g saturated), 2g fiber, 12g carbohydrate, 210 mg sodium
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE US HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY COUNCIL (WWW.LITTLEBLUEDYNAMOS.COM)