Celebrate the Blues – July is National Blueberry Month

Celebrate the Blues – July is National Blueberry Month

Blueberries were once known as star berries because of the pointy flower calyxes on top of the berries. Blueberries have grown in North America for thousands of years. Native Americans dried the berries in the sun and crushed them into a powder to be used as a rub on meats. Whole berries were added to soups, stews, and to other ingredients to make a pudding call sautauthig.

Blueberries from a Central Florida hobbiest farm. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.uthig.

Luscious, sweet blueberries have a nutrition profile. Blueberries are low in fat and a good source of fiber and vitamin C.  Blueberries are very high in antioxidants.

Look for fresh blueberries that are firm, dry, plump, smooth skinned, and relatively free from leaves and stems. Color should be deep purple blue to blue-black; reddish berries are not ripe but may be used in cooking.

Blueberries will keep a day or two at room temperature. They will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Cover berries to prevent dehydration. Reddish berries will be sour but will ripen if placed in a container with a few ripe berries and left uncovered at room temperature for a day or two.

Fresh berries should be stored covered in the refrigerator and washed just before using. Use berries within 10 days of picking or purchasing.

Blueberries are easily frozen for later use. Freeze unwashed blueberries in airtight, resealable plastic bags. If thawed, keep refrigerated and use within 3 days.

Next time you are shopping in the produce department, add fresh blueberries to your shopping cart and enjoy the delicious flavor of the berries.

BLUEBERRY PANCAKE STACKS

  • Vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • Dash of nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, stir together the milk, oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to the milk and stir just until mixed (batter should be slightly lumpy). Gently fold in the berries. Spoon the batter onto a griddle or pan greased with vegetable oil and heated to medium-hot (dollops should be about the size of a silver dollar). Let the batter cook until the tops of the pancakes begin to bubble, then flip and cook until done.

Stack and serve immediately with softened margarine and warm syrup.

Makes about eighteen 2 ½” pancakes.

BLUEBERRY SYRUP

Combine 1 pint of blueberries and 1 cup of maple syrup in a saucepan.

Heat to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer until most of the fruit has burst. Remove from heat and use a fork to smoosh the berries. The syrup will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Cucumber / Watermelon Salad

Cucumber / Watermelon Salad

July in National Watermelon Month. Watermelon is a sweet, low-calorie summer treat. The taste and fragrance of a cool, juicy slice of watermelon can’t be beat. Celebrate by trying this different recipe using nutritious, delicious watermelon.

Keep It Fresh, Keep It Safe

Keep It Fresh, Keep It Safe

Spring has arrived.  It is fresh produce season.  The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Select a rainbow of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables to enhance your diet.

farmers market with produce

Keep It Fresh
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

There is a bountiful supply of fruits and vegetables during the Spring and Summer months.  Grocery stores, famers markets, and backyard gardens abound with abundant supply of fresh produce.

Recently fresh produce has been linked to various outbreaks of foodborne illness.  These problems are becoming more common and it is important as a consumer to know how to handle fresh produce safely.

Safe Produce Handling Tips

 Purchasing

Purchase vegetables and fruits that look and smell fresh.  Purchase only the amount you will use in a few days.  Most vegetables and fruits with the exception of apples, potatoes, and citrus don’t store well for long periods of time.

Storing

Put produce away promptly.  Most whole produce will keep best stored in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer where the humidity is highest.  Tomatoes and potatoes are two exceptions.  Tomatoes taste better if stored at room temperature.  Potatoes stay fresh longer if stored in a cool, dry, dark place.  Cut produce should be stored in the refrigerator in covered containers.  Bacteria can grow on cut surfaces of produce.

Washing

Rinse whole produce thoroughly under clean running tap water, just before you are ready to use.  Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent.  Scrub or rub as needed to remove surface contamination.  Wash produce such as oranges and melons even if you don’t eat the rind or skin.  When you cut into a fruit or vegetable, any bacteria that is on the surface can be transferred to the inner flesh.  Check the label instructions on fresh bagged produce.  For example; use by date, pre-washed, and ready to eat.  Discard stored fruits and vegetables that appear moldy or smell musty.

It is essential to our health to preserve the nutrition that is found in fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals that the body needs to maintain optimal health.  Following those easy safe produce tips can help preserve freshness and assure safe produce handling.

Produce Pointers – Okra

Although not well-known outside of the South, okra is a staple in Louisiana’s famed Creole cooking. The green pods have a rigid skin and a tapered, oblong shape. When cooked, okra gives off a sticky juice that will thicken any liquid to which it is added.

Use & Preparation

Wash just before cooking only. If pods are very fuzzy, rub them in a kitchen towel.

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

To cook whole okra, trim just the barest slice from the stem end without puncturing the pods. This way, the juices won’t be released, and the okra won’t get gummy.

Boil or microwave whole until just tender. Dress with lemon juice & ground black pepper.

If okra is used in a soup, stew, or casserole that requires longer cooking, it should be cut up and the juice allowed out.

Selection

Choose pods 2 to 3 inches long, deep green, firm, and blemish free.  Pods should snap easily and puncture with slight pressure.

Storage

Refrigerate in a plastic bag up to 3 days.

 

Okra & Tomatoes

2 pounds okra, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 (14 1/2 oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Sauté onion & green pepper in oil over medium heat until tender. Add tomatoes, vinegar, salt, and pepper; stir well. Cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Add okra; cover and simmer 1 hour.

 

Okra, Tomatoes, & Corn

1 pound okra, in 1/2-inch slices

2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 cup corn kernels

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 small green pepper, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt margarine in a pan; add onion and green pepper; cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add okra and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, corn, and oregano. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

 

Nutrition Information

Fat and cholesterol free

Very low in sodium

Low in calories

Good source of vitamin A, folate, thiamine, & magnesium

High in vitamin C

Available Fresh

June – October