Contact: Lynne Richmond
(TRENTON) – Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus today announced the Jersey Fresh blueberry harvest has begun, making the healthy and delicious official state fruit of New Jersey available at local farm markets and supermarkets.
“The arrival of the Garden State’s blueberry crop is always much anticipated by people here in New Jersey, throughout the Northeast and even Canada, who value the taste and quality of our berries,” said Secretary Kuperus. “Not only do Jersey Fresh blueberries taste good, but studies show they are packed with nutrients such as fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and folate, which are important for good health.”
This year’s blueberry season comes after the state reached all-time highs in 2007 for blueberry production and value of production. According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, 54 million pounds of blueberries were produced at a value of $90.2 million last year.
Despite the record-setting year, New Jersey ranks second in the nation in blueberry production behind Michigan, which produced 93 million pounds of the fruit in 2007.
The cool weather in New Jersey delayed this year’s harvest by a day or two compared to last year. The harvest began around June 16 for the Duke variety. Later varieties are expected to be available through August 15th.
The major varieties of blueberry grown in New Jersey are Duke -- named for one of the founders of Atlantic Blueberry Company in Hammonton -- and Blue Crop.
“This blueberry season looks like it will be superb, thanks to a mild winter, good spring weather and timely rainfall,” said Tim Wetherbee, Chairman of the New Jersey Blueberry Industry Advisory Council.. “We are anticipating large blueberries with a slight increase in production over last year.”
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.
Blueberries also are a part of New Jersey’s agri-tourism industry, with pick-your-own farms in nine 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 offers 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 don’t 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 found on the Jersey Fresh website at: www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/recipes/recipefile.htm.
Very Blueberry Cobbler
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted
½ cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup milk
2 cups Jersey Fresh blueberries
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (optional)
Use a 9-inch glass pie plate. Spread melted butter over the bottom. Cover the butter with the blueberries. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and add milk. When blended, pour the batter over the blueberries. Optional: sprinkle sugar over the batter. Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees or until top is nicely browned. Goes very well with vanilla ice cream.
Contributed by: Richard Fitzgerald, Pennington, NJ
True Blue Banana Pancakes
with Blueberry Compote
2 Jersey Fresh eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup flour
1 cup blue corn flour, finely ground
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 cup Jersey Fresh blueberries blueberry compote
1 large or 2 small bananas, sliced thin
2 cups buttermilk
3 TBS vegetable oil
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp salt
vegetable oil for cooking
Whisk together the eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Sift and combine dry ingredients and add lemon zest in another bowl and add to buttermilk mixture. Do not over mix. Stir only enough to moisten dry ingredients. Brush vegetable oil on a heavy griddle, heat the grill, spoon the batter onto the hot griddle and add several blueberries and slices of bananas to each pancake. When edges of the pancakes are bubbly around the edges, turn and cook the other side. Serve warm with blueberry compote
1 generous cup of Jersey Fresh blueberries
1 heaping TBS cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Contributed by: Cynthia Dunham, Princeton, NJ