Contact: Lynne Richmond
(TRENTON) – Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus today announced Jersey Fresh blueberries – New Jersey’s official state fruit -- are in season and available at local farm markets and supermarkets.
The blueberry harvesting began around June 15th. Warm weather has hastened the ripening and the fruit is expected to be available in good quantities with excellent quality. Blueberries are usually available beginning in mid-June, peaking in July and ending in early-August.
“With recent studies showing the health benefits of blueberries, there has been great demand for New Jersey’s state fruit in both our state, the Northeast and Canada,” said Secretary Kuperus. “They are packed with fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and folate, but most people love to eat blueberries because they taste great and are delicious in cobblers, pancakes and even wine.”
The evidence is mounting as to the health benefits of blueberries. United States Department of Agriculture researchers found that blueberries ranked first in antioxidant activity in comparison to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful by-products of metabolism called "free radicals" that are associated with cancer and other age related diseases.
The state ranks second in the country in blueberries production. In 2006, a total of 52 million pounds of blueberries were produced on 7,600 acres. The value of the utilized production was $83.7 million. Atlantic County led the state with 6,100 acres harvested, with Burlington County farmers harvesting 1,200 acres.
The major variety of blueberry grown in New Jersey is Blue Crop, followed by Duke, named for one of the founders of Atlantic Blueberry Company in Hammonton.
Blueberries also are a part of our agri-tourism industry, with pick-your-own farms in ten counties throughout the state. To find a pick-your-own blueberry farm or markets carrying Jersey Fresh blueberries, visit the Jersey Fresh website at www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov or www.visitnjfarms.org.
The Department offered these tips for selecting blueberries:
- Look for blueberries that are plump and fresh looking;
- Pay particular attention to their color; they should be blue, black, bluish-black or purple;
- Blueberries have a gray, waxy deposit on the skin called bloom. The bloom is a protective coating, so do not wash blueberries until ready to use;
- Freeze blueberries on a cookie sheet and then place into a freezer storage bag;
- Blueberries spoil quickly if left at room temperature, but can be stored in the refrigerator for three days;
- Avoid containers that have juice stains on them, a sign the berries are crushed;
- Wrinkled fruit means they have been stored too long; while soft, watery fruit means the berries are overripe.
Following are recipes for blueberries from Jersey Fresh Cooks, a cookbook available at local farm markets:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 Tbsp. raspberry jelly
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
7 Tbsp. sweet butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine the 2 Tbsp. of sugar, butter, flour, with your hands until the mixture holds together. Press mixture into the center of a 9-inch tart pan. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. Then evenly cover the bottom and sides of pie pan. Combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with 3 cups of the blueberries, and cinnamon. Brush jelly over the bottom of the tart; pour blueberry mixture into the pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the berries are soft. Remove from oven, and place the remaining berries over the top. Remove the rim of the pan when cool.
Nutritional analysis: 299 calories, 3 grams of protein, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of fat, 6 milligrams of sodium, 36 milligrams of cholesterol.
Blueberry Hill Muffins
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 Jersey Fresh eggs
2 cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 to 1½ cups Jersey Fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
Cream butter and sugar well. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Mix in sour cream and vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients and blend. Add blueberries gently. Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease and flour tins. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes. Bake mini muffins for 18 minutes.
Contributed by: Phyllis Madsen, Basking Ridge, NJ