Seasonal berries are one of the singular joys of summer. Strawberries come first, followed by raspberries, boysenberries, and, arguably the most coveted variety, blueberries. It’s easy to see why the orbs are so beloved, once you consider their striking color (we do eat with our eyes first), low calorie count (about 80 per cup), and high levels of manganese, vitamin C, and fiber. Wild, or “lowbush,” blueberries—one of three berry species native to North America—also have two times the levels of antioxidants than their cultivated counterparts.
So how did domesticated blues get their start? In early-1900s New Jersey, USDA botanist Frederick Coville partnered with agricultural specialist Elizabeth White to develop and breed the tall iconic bush that bears large, plump berries. Seedlings quickly spread to other states, and today, highbush blueberries can be found countrywide, especially during their peak season of May to September.
When purchasing pints, choose berries that are firm, dry, plump, and smooth; wrinkles or wetness indicate bruising, spoilage, or potential mold elsewhere in the container. Avoid red or other lightly colored blueberries—they are underripe and, unlike other summer fruits such as peaches or plums, won’t continue to mature at home. If you’re planning to cook with your produce, spring for wild berries, as they contain less water and hold their shape well when baked.
Blueberries and cream cheese are meant for each other—try the combo in cheesecake, a cinnamon-scented galette, or muffins. For a cool summer treat, spoon blueberry compote over ice cream or frozen yogurt, or fold it into a fool. Buttery triple creams pair well, too, especially tucked inside a melty grilled cheese with berries, or simply smear blueberry compound butter over whole grain pancakes. But don’t get stuck in a sweet spot—blueberries can also go savory, as in the following recipe.
Makes 1½ cups
- 8 ounces Neufchâtel, room temperature
- ½ cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Stilton
- ¾ cup dried blueberries
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 3 slices bacon, cooked until very crisp and crumbled
- Blend Neufchâtel and blue cheese in a stand mixer on medium speed. Fold in blueberries, garlic, and green onions. Transfer to refrigerator and let sit 2 hours or overnight.
- Transfer dip to a serving dish and garnish with crumbled bacon. Devour.
Feature Photo Credit: B and E Dudzinscy | Shutterstock