Blue is among today’s trendy colors, a hue from the Americanlandscape, the Paint Quality Institute asserts. Clothing storewindows hail “happy” blues. In stories I write for St. Louis’ BestBridal, it translates into gowns, vests, shoes and accessories fromthat segment of the wedding rainbow.
Blue is red-hot in food, too. Like blues in living spaces,blueberries soothe the spirit and nourish the body.
A few weeks ago my daughter-in-law and I stopped at the LoganSquare Farmers Market in their Chicago neighborhood minutes beforethe weekly indoor event closed. Missie had a mission to bring homefrozen blueberries from Roedger Bros. Farms. Janet Viverito, Mikeand Rich Roedger’s sister, handed us plump, juicy, flavorfulsamples.
Their generous size comes from the first picking.
“Usually there are four or five picks, but the first one is byfar bigger and sweeter than the others.” A mechanical picker that”looks like a pontoon boat,” she said, hovers over bushes, to shakeand drop berries onto a conveyor belt for cooling, cleaning andflash-freezing the day they are picked, conserving their nutrition.Those first-pick berries are frozen under their own name, theremaining harvest sold for other uses.
Mike was working in real estate when he met a Michigan blueberryfarmer who was losing his eyesight. As their friendship increased,the farmer introduced him to other growers. Mike and his brother,Rich, joined their ranks in early 2009. Blueberries are their onlycrop on farms in Covert and South Haven, part of Michigan’s “fruitbelt” with sandy soil and lake-effect moisture.
Janet follows the trail of markets that want Roedger frozenberries. She uses them as a healthy, delicious fruit and juicewithout added sugar.
“We’re helping people in a healthy way. Blueberries are greatfor babies and all ages,” she said. Their fundraisers includeBlueberries for Babies for the March of Dimes.
She often uses them straight from the freezer with only a fewminutes of thawing time. Her three teenage children eat them by thebowl. “They go right into muffins, pancakes — my kids’ favorite,waffles, I even bake pies with them frozen,” she said.
Cooking them frozen, or stirring them into batter as the lastingredient, avoids streaking their pretty blue color — or turningthem red when an acid like vinegar or lemon juice splashes, orgreenish-blue with baking soda.
She was ready to try a new pie, adding grated apple and cinnamonto the blueberries in a walnut crust.
“I put them right in yogurt, cereal, oatmeal. If you let themsit out 10 minutes, they get nice and creamy,” Janet advised. Shenoted that the small frozen “wild” blueberry, another commonvariety in the freezer, comes from Canada and the East Coast.
Fresh Blueberry Chicken Salad with Almonds
2 whole chicken breasts, cooked, diced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup minced green onion
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup blueberries (for frozen, see Note)
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet mustard
1/4 cup toasted almonds
Place chicken in bowl. In second bowl, sprinkle red onion withvinegar and toss. Add green onion, parsley, cranberries and freshblueberries. Fold gently to mix.
In small bowl, blend mayonnaise, yogurt and mustard well. Foldinto chicken mixture.
Garnish with toasted almonds.
Makes 6 servings; 322 calories, 13 g (3 g saturated) fat, 66mg cholesterol, 255 mg sodium, 22 g protein and 3 g dietary fibereach. Double recipe for 8 to 12 servings.
Note: Gently fold in frozen blueberries just before serving.