CARTHAGE, Mo. —
I look forward to blueberry season like a kid looks forward to Christmas. Or at least Easter.
It helps that I adore eating blueberries, but I love everything about the season. It's the beginning of summer, before the plants are fried because we're sick of watering, before we've emptied our first bottle of sunscreen and before we're just plain tired of sweating. It's a magical time of year.
I haven't had much success growing my own blueberries, so the next best thing is going to a blueberry farm and picking them myself. I use my 4-year-old's tiny fingers for child labor. I want her to learn about where our food comes from, plus we get a few more berries. It's a win-win situation.
We head out early in the morning, slathered in sunscreen, bug spray and wearing our floppiest sun hats. The farms supply buckets with a removable plastic bag. If you're lucky, the farm will have a belt for you, too. It's handy to attach your bucket to a belt so you can use both hands to cup a bunch of berries.
The ripe ones roll right into your hands with no resistance. Blueberry picking etiquette recommends completing the bush before moving on to the next one. Pick for as long as you want; you can go back for bucket after bucket.
It's OK to sample some berries along the way. I'm pretty sure the folks in charge expect you to have gray teeth by the time you're ready to pull out your wallet. Once you get home with your bounty, there's really not much else to do.
The beauty of blueberries is that they don't have messy pits, seeds or stems to deal with. Store them in a container in the fridge and give them a quick rinse right before you eat them. If you want to freeze some for later, roll the berries onto a sheet pan in a single layer. Freeze them, then put them in freezer bags. Rinse them only when you're ready to use them, in order to prevent them from freezing into a solid blueberry block.
Blueberries are full of antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C. It's easy to grab a handful and swirl them into your cereal or yogurt, or eat them on their own for a sweet superfood snack.
Visit the Berry Shed, Heritage Farms or Thompson Bees and Berries, all located in Joplin, to pick your own. Try these recipes if you need an idea for your blueberry bounty.
Blueberry mango quinoa salad with lemon basil dressing
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup cubed ripe mangoes
1/2 cup cubed cucumbers
1/2 tablespoon dried cranberries
11/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
10 basil leaves, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Place the quinoa and water in a medium skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked. Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Let it cool to room temperature.
While the quinoa is cooking, combine the fruits in a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the salad.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients except the chopped basil. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Chop and add the basil to the dressing just before serving. Add half the dressing to the quinoa and mix gently.
Assemble the salad just before serving: Toss the quinoa, fruits and cucumbers together. Serve other half of the dressing on the side. Serve immediately.
Adapted from veggiebelly.com
Whole-wheat blueberry scones
2 cups of white whole-wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon raw sugar
11/3 cups milk
1 heaping cup blueberries
1 tablespoon melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir in the milk and mix just until the dough starts to come together (it will be sticky). Add in the blueberries, mixing just enough to get them incorporated.
Place dough onto a floured countertop and knead briefly, just enough to bring the dough all together. Use your hands to pat the dough down into about an 8-inch circle. Brush the top of the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place the wedges on a rimmed baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat making sure that the scones don't touch. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the scones are golden brown.
Adapted from cleananddelicious.com
Magical blueberry vanilla chia seed jam
3 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
2 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a medium non-stick pot, bring the blueberries and 3 tablespoons of maple syrup to a low boil. Stir frequently, and reduce heat to low-medium to simmer for about 5 minutes. Lightly mash the blueberries with a potato masher or fork, leaving some for texture.
Stir in the chia seeds until thoroughly combined. Cook the mixture down until it thickens to your desired consistency, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently so it doesn't stick to the pot. Once the jam is thick, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Add more maple syrup to taste if desired.
Have questions? Email them to email@example.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.