Blueberry Chèvre Salad

Blueberry Chèvre Salad

July is National Blueberry Month, and we’re celebrating with lots of information and recipes.

As I mentioned last week, I just can’t get enough blueberries this season. I’ve been eating them in nearly every meal. In fact, my go-to salad for lunch has been some variation of this salad.

I almost always have some kind of soft cheese in the fridge. Lately, I have been buying different kinds of chèvre to use in various salads. It’s especially delicious with sweet salad ingredients, like beets. Or blueberries. In this case, I’ve boosted the blueberry flavor by using a blueberry chèvre.
Plain chèvre also works quite well, as does honey chèvre, and surprisingly even the herbed chèvre.

Blueberry Chèvre Salad
1 cup fresh lettuce
10-12 fresh blueberries
2-3 tbsp chèvre
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
4-6 walnuts
dash sea salt

When I’m making a salad for lunch on the go, I assemble the salad in two containers. One has the lettuce, berries, walnuts and cheese. In a smaller container, I mix the oil, balsamic vinegar, onions and salt. I dress it just before eating it to keep the lettuce (and cheese) from getting soggy.

Savory Blueberry Basil Sauce

Savory Blueberry Basil Sauce

July is National Blueberry Month, and we’re celebrating with lots of information and recipes.

I just can’t get enough blueberries this season. I’ve been eating them in muffins, pancakes, and scones. They’ve found their way onto my morning cereal, and even into a couple of salads for lunch. And, of course, lots of them are going over ice cream.

I’ve also been trying them in other recipes. Recently, I made a delicious savory sauce to go over grilled salmon. I came up with the idea based off my go-to salmon glaze recipe made with limes and soy sauce. I tweaked it a bit to emphasize the sweetness of the blueberries, and added some basil for a delicious surprise. It’s also quite good over chicken, and even pork.

Savory Blueberry Basil Sauce
1/2 pint (about 6 ounces) of fresh blueberries
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon oil

1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. I used bacon grease, as that’s what I do most of my sautéing in, but you can easily use olive oil or butter. When the oil is hot, add onions and garlic and sauté over medium for a few minutes, until they have softened.

2. Add balsamic vinegar and chopped basil. If you berries are a bit tart, you can add brown sugar or honey. I taste the berries before I start cooking, to see how sweet they are, and decide how much, if any, sugar to use. I also taste the sauce again while it’s cooking, to be sure. Heat over medium until the liquid begins to thicken and bubble.

3. Add the blueberries and stir to mix well. Continue to heat mixture over medium. The berries will pop and release their juice. When it begins to thicken again, it’s ready to go over your salmon.

Blueberry Lavender Scones

Blueberry Lavender Scones

July is National Blueberry Month, and we’re celebrating with lots of information and recipes.

Blueberries and lavender are almost perfect partners. The sweet, juicy blueberries pair nicely with the pine-y, spicy flavor of lavender. And they both are in season at the same time, which makes it easy to come up with lots of delicious recipes.

Taking a look at our Pinterest wall, one of the most popular pins going around is a recipe for a refreshing blueberry lavender spritzer cocktail, which looks like a refreshing drink for a hot day. Another popular recipe making the rounds is for blueberry lavender ice cream, which looks sweet and rich.

While I have enjoyed the lavender cocktails and ice cream I’ve tried, I thought a blueberry lavender combination would be perfect for a cream scone. Mother Nature has cooperated, as the weather here in Northern California has been a bit cool and gray — perfect baking weather. I took my favorite scone recipe (loosely based on the Smitten Kitchen scone recipe) and added fresh blueberries and fresh lavender. You can substitute frozen berries and dried lavender quite easily. Just reduce the amount of lavender to about 2 teaspoons or so. Keep in mind that lavender, like rosemary, has quite a strong flavor, and less is often better. These scones are so light and flakey, with big, sweet berries, and just the right hint of lavender. They’re perfect with a cup of Ceylon tea.

Blueberry Lavender Cream Scones
2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lavender buds
4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup cream
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
sugar

1. Mix dry ingredients, including lavender. If you’re using a food processor, this should be a quick 8 or 10 pulses. I like to get the lavender buds a bit broken up, to keep from eating a whole bud while eating. If you are using unsalted butter, add the full 1/2 teaspoon. If you are using salted butter, reduce the amount to 1/4 teaspoon.

2. Add the chilled butter in small cubes so that they’re evenly distributed in the dry mixture. If you’re using a food processor, remove the lid and place them evenly around the blade. Pulse the mixture 10 or 15 times, until the mixture resembles course meal. Don’t over mix, or you run the risk of melting the butter. Transfer to a large bowl. If you’re mixing by hand, use two knives or a pastry knife to blend the butter in evenly.

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the cream, gently stirring it in, making sure to scrape the sides often. Once the mixture starts to come together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently knead it only until the liquid is evenly distributed. Don’t over-knead, or you risk melting the butter and activating the wheat gluten. Both are disastrous to flakey scones.

4. Flatten the dough and pour the blueberries into a small mound in the center. Turn the sides of the dough up around the blueberries, trying to cover as many blueberries as possible. Gently work the dough around the berries, picking it up and turning it as necessary. Three or four turns should be enough to have worked the berries in evenly.

5. Place the dough in a greased round cake pan and evenly spread it to fill the whole pan. Chill the pan in the freezer for up to 1 hour. This will help keep the butter cool.

6. Cut the dough into 6 or 8 portions, and remove each from the pan using a knife or cake server to keep it from sticking. Place scones on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Mix together the egg and milk and brush on the tops. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 425° F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tops start to color.

7. Allow the scones to cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm for a delicious treat. Store remaining scones in an airtight container for up to three days, or freeze immediately.

Keep your berries healthy all summer

Keep your berries healthy all summer

Berry plants tend to be fairly low maintenance plants, put them in the right place, keep them watered and they will grow stronger, bigger and more productive every year (until they threaten to fill your whole garden and you have to start restricting them). Even so, there are a couple of things you can do to help your plants and increase the harvest for years to come.

In most places the most important thing you need to do for your berry plants is protect them from birds. Birds love berries just as much as you do (after all, berries were created to be eaten by birds as a way of transporting the seed). If given the opportunity they will strip the bushes of every edible fruit. You could try various ways to scare them away — shiny tape, inflatable predators, scarecrows — but birds will soon figure out that these aren’t a problem, so they don’t usually work for long. The only foolproof way to foil the birds is by carefully covering the plants with netting (this has to be done thoroughly because they will look for any openings). Applying and removing netting is a real pain because it snags on everything it touches (be careful it doesn’t tear) and is one of the few garden jobs I really dislike. If you have to do this every year, you might think about putting your berries inside a permanent fruit cage (the simplest of these is made from PVC pipe).

The other important maintenance activity is removing old stems to encourage vigorous new fruiting growth. Blackberry and raspberry canes usually die after their second year and can create a dense thicket if not removed (these can be removed after they have finished fruiting). Blueberries and currants fruit more vigorously on younger wood, so every year some older ones are removed to encourage new growth.

To keep the plants growing as vigorously as possible, you also need to keep them well watered. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. If the plants are bearing heavily then some fertilization may also be needed to keep them producing well. The best way to do this is to apply some mulch, which will also keep down weeds and conserve moisture. Just be sure to use an acidic mulch such as pine needles for blueberries, since they need a bit more acid.

Grilled blueberries

Grilled blueberries

July is National Blueberry Month, and we’re celebrating with lots of information and recipes.

You read that right. Grilled blueberries. Yes, you really can grill almost anything, even blueberries. Not sure how you would go about grilling blueberries? You’re not alone. I mean, they’re pretty small and would fall through the grate, right?

Two words: foil packets.

Foil packets are a great way to grill all kinds of small items. We use them to grill sweet potato slices, tiny baby beets, even radishes. Just add some butter or olive oil, and wrap them up using several layers of foil, making sure to fold under the sides so none of the delicious juices leak out.

This recipe for grilled berries is perfect for your 4th of July BBQ gathering.

Grilled berries
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries*
juice of 1 lemon
lemon zest
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon butter

*you can substitute any berries you have on hand

1. In a medium bowl, mix together berries, lemon juice, zest, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar.

2. Create foil packet and spoon berry mixture into center. Add butter on top. Seal foil carefully, making sure the sides are turned under well to prevent leaking.

3. Place on the grill in a medium-heat zone, and allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Pour over ice cream, garnish with a mint spring, and enjoy!

July is National Blueberry Month

July is National Blueberry Month

July is National Blueberry Month, and we’re celebrating with lots of great information and recipes.

July is National Blueberry Month. Growing blueberries is easy, but picking out the right plants for your yard might be a bit daunting. No need to worry, though. We'll help you sort out the different types and find the right plants for you!Blueberries are native to North America, and are related to cranberries and bilberries. While people have been harvesting wild blueberries for centuries, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that garden varieties were propagated.

Growing blueberry plants is relatively easy, and they make a lovely addition to your yard or garden. They grow as a shrub, and are often planted in containers because they require a bit more acidic soils than most plants. Blueberry bushes are attractive year-round. In the spring, their delicate flowers attract bees, and in the fall, their leaves turn a brilliant red.

These delicious little berries are jam packed with vitamins and nutrients, making them a tiny powerhouse of sweet goodness! They’re high in manganese, vitamins C and K, and many cancer-fighting phytonutrients.

While growing blueberries is relatively easy, picking the right plant for your garden might be a bit daunting. There are several things you need to know to select the right variety for your garden:

July is National Blueberry Month. Growing blueberries is easy, but picking out the right plants for your yard might be a bit daunting. No need to worry, though. We'll help you sort out the different types and find the right plants for you!Highbush and Lowbush
Highbush blueberries (V. corymbosum) can grow to be nearly 8 feet tall. They also produce some of the largest, juiciest berries, which is why they are the foundation of the blueberry growing industry. The highbush variety was first grown as a commercial crop of the early 1900s when Elizabeth White and Frederick Coville of Whitesbog, New Jersey, began identifying superior wild plants and developing improved cultivars. To grow well, these varieties require an acidic soil and a fairly long chill period. Some popular varieties to consider are Chandler and Legacy.

Lowbush blueberries are low growing varieties and are descended from V. angustifolium. Like many Highbush varieties, they are often simply superior cultivars of wild plants. Their diminutive size make them ideal for smaller gardens, and some can even be grown in small containers, like the Top Hat. The berries tend to be small but quite flavorful. They also need a long winter chill period and acidic soil to do well.

Northern and Southern
Most Highbush plants are Northern varieties, like Blueray, and have been cultivated to grow well in the colder, northern regions. These varieties require at least 1000 chill hours. They are primarily self pollinating, and can be grown as solo plants, but tend to bear more and laJuly is National Blueberry Month. Growing blueberries is easy, but picking out the right plants for your yard might be a bit daunting. No need to worry, though. We'll help you sort out the different types and find the right plants for you!rger fruit when planted with a second variety. These northern varieties require more acidic soil than many southern varieties.

Southern Highbush blueberries are hybrids of the Northern varieties that have been bred with various southern wild species (V. ashei , V. darrowi). They can tolerate some heat and mild winters and do well in warmer and drier areas. There are even some varieties with chill requirements as low as 100 hours, with most ranging from 200 to 500 hours. Southern Highbush do require at least two varieties for cross-pollination, but their soil requirements are less stringent than the northern varieties. Some favorites are Jewel and Misty

Early-, Mid-, and Late-Season
Depending on the type of plant and growing conditions, blueberries can be harvested any time from May to August. Early-season  plants, like Reka and O’Neal, as you would imagine, typically bear fruit earliest in the season, with Mid-season plants, like Bluecrop and Emerald, coming in around June, and Late-season berries, like Sunshine Blue and Chandler, ripening in July and August. If you plant a several of each, you can have fresh blueberries all summer long.