The harvest season for fresh blueberries in Louisiana runs from May through July. We should begin to find the berries available at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and farms. If you want to see if there is a farm in your area with blueberries for sale, you can check out Louisiana Market Maker. This searchable website lists all types of agricultural products and commodities for sale. Click here for Louisiana Market Maker website.
One-half cup of blueberries has only 42 calories while providing a good source of fiber. Blueberries are also great sources of vitamin C and folic acid. For such a small berry, blueberries are known for having important health benefits due to phytochemicals. The phytochemicals also give the blueberries their blue hue. Blueberries are full of healthful properties such as: anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-neurodegenerative, and anti-inflammatory.
Phytochemicals are commonly referred to as phytonutrients and are naturally occurring components of fruits and vegetables. They have beneficial effects on human health. Anti-oxidants are very valuable to our health because of their ability to fight free-radical damage to cells. This damage may lead to cancer, heart disease, and chronic inflammation. Blueberries have the highest anti-oxidant level per serving compared to 50 other fruits and vegetables.
Research has shown that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables lowers the risk for developing heart disease. Blueberries are a tasty way to add fruit to your diet. In addition, the consumption of blueberries is believed to play a role in delaying the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Blueberries may even play a role in gastrointestinal health.
Look for blueberries that are plump, juicy, and firm with a deep purple to blue-black skin. Avoid berries that are shriveled. Blueberries do not ripen once they are harvested, so they are picked at the peak of flavor and sweetness. Handle the fruit gently to avoid bruising which will shorten the life of the fruit. Blueberries should be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container. They should be placed loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and prevent the berries on top from crushing those underneath. Do not wash them before refrigerating. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for three to five days. Before eating the berries or using them in a recipe, wash them gently in cold water.
Blueberries can also be frozen without washing. When washed before freezing, blueberry skins become tough. To freeze, remove stems and package tightly in freezer bags, containers, or glass jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Seal the containers airtight and freeze. When you are ready to use them, rinse in cold water to wash and use immediately. You can use frozen berries directly from the freezer. There is no need to thaw them if you use them in baked products, except for pancakes. For pancakes, microwave the amount of berries you need for a few seconds to thaw.
The LSU AgCenter’s publication entitled “Enjoy Louisiana Blueberries” has great information and recipes for using blueberries. Click here to download this publication.