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The Wild Ones

Michael Cullen June 1, 2010 Savour Sudbury No Comments on The Wild Ones

We are very lucky in Sudbury to have access to blueberries in such great quantities and freshness. Blueberries are high in fibre and in Vitamin C. They are low in calories and have valuable antioxidants. These tiny fruits are dubbed by many as “Super Fruits” for the long list of health benefits they carry.

Picking wild blueberries can also relieve stress. Spending a couple of hours in a blueberry patch can be very therapeutic and
relaxing.

These little blue delicacies are very convenient as they need no peeling or pitting. They are free for the picking in the wild during the summer months. With the right climatic conditions, our local picking season can run from late June to mid-fall.

Whether you eat them for health reasons or for pure enjoyment, a few simple tricks will help you keep them fresh longer. To prevent them from turning soft prematurely, keep them in a sealed container in the refrigerator and do not wash them until just before
eating.

The more common uses for blueberries are in jellies, jams, pies, pancakes, muffins, cereals and juices. When purchasing a blueberry preserve, always read the label as sometimes these products will actually contain huckleberries, bilberries or cowberries as a main ingredient instead of the true blueberry as we know it.

For the adventurous home chefs, there are a number of other ways to enjoy blueberries other than in a bowl of cereal or in a pastry. Blueberries can be a delicious addition to a loose leaf salad such as spinach or other fresh greens. When a salad recipe calls for strawberries or raspberries, blueberries make a substitute second to none.

If you are feeling adventurous, try blue-berries blended with balsamic vinegar for a delicious vinaigrette. It will have a sweet and sour taste and makes a refreshing combination for delicate greens such as baby spinach.

With the right kitchen gadgets, you can juice them or dry them quite easily in order to enjoy them in beverages.

Blueberry juice can be mixed with other fruit juices and sparkling water or soda for delicious and refreshing summer punches and drinks. Jazz up a glass pitcher or punch bowl by throwing in a handful of blueberries along with ice cubes.

Blueberry juice can also be used to make a glaze. A glaze is a simple reduction of the juice that has been boiled until it most of the water has evaporated.

The final product is natural blueberry syrup that can be used as a drizzle for grilled fish or poultry. The glaze will have a rich concentrated fruit flavour. If purchasing blueberry juices to create a glaze, make sure the juice is 100 percent pure and not a blend of fruit juices.

Dig out your dehydrator and throw in some blueberries, strawberries and other small fruits. Add to a trail mix and take it along on a hike for a delicious snack.

They also can be used as a garnish for desserts such as blueberry shortcake. Mix the dried berries with freshly whipped cream to create a crunch surrounded by the sweet cream. Dried blueberries can also be steeped into teas and can be blended with other tea varieties for added flavour.

Be adventurous this summer, grab some blueberries and stretch outside your cooking comfort zones. Include them in the first courses instead of just the final one.
Michael Cullen is a chef who operates the Y.U.M Culinary Academy in Sudbury. This article first appeared in the Summer 2008 edition.

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