The blueberry is a small sweet fruit.
Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated ones. Blueberries have a protective light powdery coating on the skins and tend to last longer than other berry varieties. Nearly half of the cultivated blueberries grown are sold as fresh blueberries. Fresh blueberries are available for nearly eight months of the year from producers across the United States and Canada. North America is the world's leading blueberry producer, accounting for nearly 90% of world production.
In general, berries should be dry, firm, well shaped, and eaten within a week after purchase. If you can’t eat them that soon, remember that berries freeze well! It’s best to buy berries that are ‘in-season’ as they’ll cost less and are more ripe and flavorful than ‘out-of-season’ berries.
Blueberries must be ripe when purchased, as they do not continue to ripen after harvesting. Stay away from containers of berries with juice stains which may be a sign that the berries are crushed and possibly moldy; soft, watery fruit that means the berries are overripe; dehydrated, wrinkled fruit that means the berries have been stored too long.
Select blueberries that are firm, dry, plump, and smooth-skinned. Berries should be completely blue (deep-purple blue to blue-black) with no tinge of red; reddish berries aren't ripe but can be used in cooking.
Keep blueberries refrigerated, unwashed, in a rigid covered container. Water on fresh blueberries hastens deterioration, so do not wash before refrigeration. They should last up to two weeks if they are freshly picked.
To freeze, first rinse then dry thoroughly. Discard immature or overripe berries. Store in airtight freezer containers, for up to one year.
- Blueberries tend to change color during cooking. Acids, like lemon juice and vinegar, make the blue in blueberries turn red. In an alkaline environment, such as a batter with too much baking soda, the blueberries may turn greenish-blue.
- To reduce the amount of color streaking, which can turn the batter an unappealing slate gray color, stir your blueberries (right from your freezer, if frozen) into your cake or muffin batter last.
- When making pancakes and waffles, add the blueberries as soon as the batter has been poured on the griddle or waffle iron. This will make the pancakes prettier and they'll be easier to flip. If frozen blueberries are used, cooking time may have to be increased to be sure the berries are heated through.
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Blueberry becomes available halfway through spring, with a peak in the summer. The North American blueberry harvest (responsible for most of the world's supply) runs from mid-April through early October, with peak harvest from mid-May to August.