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It’s Blueberry Festival time; fruit is healthy for you

It’s Blueberry Picking time!

How do I know? It’s because of the fresh-picked blueberries Saundra Anthony shared with the office staff recently. They were plump, juicy, ripe and delicious! Yum! Yum! That’s a good sign that they are ready for picking in Brewton and surrounding areas.

This coming weekend, all roads lead to Jennings’ Park in downtown Brewton for the 36th Annual Alabama Blueberry Festival.

You are invited to join us for this big festival Sat., June 18, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be a day full of good, wholesome food, fun and entertainment for the entire family.

A good landmark to look for in downtown Brewton is the old Ritz Movie Theatre Marquee, where Highways 31 and 41 intersect.

It’s going to be so exciting to have live entertainment all day, arts and crafts, a 5K run/walk, antique/classic car show, festival cookbooks, food vendors, blueberry ice cream, fresh blueberries, and blueberry bushes for sale.

There will also be a special children’s fun section including fun inflatables, water slide, train ride and face painting, etc. So, be sure to load up the family and head to Brewton for a day of great family fun.

For more information, call the Greater Brewton Area Chamber of Commerce at 251-867-3224 or email them at www.brewtonchamber.com/blueberry-festival.

I really feel a close love and “kinship” to the Alabama Blueberry Festival. I can remember being there in the very beginning, the early years, at Jefferson Davis Junior College (now JDCC) campus with the late Peggy Bracken, county extension agent, as we coordinated the Blueberry Recipe and Tasting Party. Ladies from all around Brewton and surrounding areas, including Point Clear, Ft. Walton and Pensacola, Fla., brought their best blueberry dishes – hoping to win the grand prize.

We were in Blueberry Country or Blueberry Heaven then, and will be on Saturday.

The Escambia County Extension Office has two great free pamphlets called “Alabama Blueberries,” HE-0579 and “Blueberries: Fresh Grown in Alabama” available just for you. Each pamphlet has great information on different types, how to freeze, store, prepare blueberries and each pamplet has tasty recipes too. Stop by our office at 175 Ag Science Dr. in Brewton (behind Southern Pine Electric Cooperative, on Highway 31 south) and pick up your copies today. Recipes were developed by Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

 

Handling

Blueberries

Blueberries are not as perishable as most other berries. While other berries keep their quality only a day or two after you buy them, blueberries will keep about a week if they are handled properly.

Use care in working with blueberries—they do bruise easily. Put blueberries in a plastic container and refrigerate them as soon as possible. Do not wash blueberries until you are ready to use them. The added moisture will hasten the growth of mold on the berries.

 

Freezing

Blueberries

Only ripe, full-flavored berries should be used for freezing. Blueberries do not have to be washed before freezing. Washing before freezing results in a tougher-skinned product. However, the berries should be harvested when they are dry, and they should be washed after thawing.

If you choose to wash blueberries before freezing, you should sort the berries then wash them quickly in colander using cool water. After washing the berries, spread them on a metal tray in a single layer and pat the berries dry with paper towels (they stick together if they are frozen wet). Then freeze them until they are solid.

Finally, pack the berries in freezer containers and label (write date) on the containers. Blueberries may be frozen in containers or covered with a cold 40 percent syrup (3 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water).

 

Nutritional Value of Blueberries

For health-conscious people, blueberries are one of the most highly sought fruits in the United States. It can be classified as a convenience food because there is no pitting, peeling or waste. A pint serves four people generously, and a half-cup serving of blueberries contains only 44 calories. Fresh blueberries are known as “brain food,” high in antioxidants, a good source of vitamins A and C, soluble fiber, potassium, phytochemicals, and phosphorous.

Shiny, plump blueberries are a healthy snack for the entire family.

Blueberries are versatile fruits and can be eaten fresh, frozen, dried or added to cereals, salads, yogurt, ice cream and more.

What a great nutritious fruit. Try these simple ways to eat blueberries:

• Blend a couple of small pieces of frozen blueberries, 3/4 cup of juice and a half cup of vanilla or other flavored yogurt for a quick smoothie.

• Sprinkle fresh blueberries on cereal, ice cream, melons, or meringue shells.

• Use blueberry sauce on vanilla pudding, ice cream or pound cake.

• Make blueberry crepes. Place sweetened blueberries sprinkled with lemon juice in the center on freshly cooked crepes and roll the crepes. Top with whipped cream and more berries or a blueberry sauce.

• Stir blueberries into pancake, waffle or cake batter.

• Nestle a few blueberries inside biscuits along with a little butter and sugar, bake and serve hot or a surprise opening

Here are two delightful recipes from the Alabama Blueberries.

 

Blueberry-Peach Yogurt Smoothie

1 /2 cup orange juice

1 /2 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt

1/ 2 cup blueberries

1 /2 cup peeled and sliced peaches

1-2 teaspoons honey

1 /2 cup ice

 

Blend the ice, orange juice, honey and yogurt. Add the sliced peaches and blend well. Add the blueberries, and blend on low for 30 seconds. Add leftover blueberries to the top and enjoy a great fruity smoothie.

 

Blueberry Muffins

1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup sugar

1 large egg, beaten

2/3 cup milk

1/4 shortening, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup fresh blueberries

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in mixing bowl. Add egg, milk, shortening and vanilla extract. Mix only until all ingredients are blended, using about 28 strokes. Stir in dry, washed blueberries. Drop batter into well-greased, lightly floured muffin pans, filling them three-fourths full. Bake in a preheated moderate oven (375 F) for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 12 to 14 muffins.

For more recipes and information on Alabama Blueberries, visit the Alabama Cooperative Extension System website.