Did you know the state of Georgia is the second largest producer of blueberries in the United States after Michigan?
A couple of factors make Georgia the popular place for growing these sweet berries. The sandy, acidic soil combined with a climate allows for an extended growing season.
Blueberries are full of antioxidants, vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fiber and on top of that, they contain no fat and have only 80 calories per cup. This pretty much makes for the perfect fruit.
I didn’t have much experience with blueberry bushes until our children began picking blueberries in their Poppa’s garden when they were very young. I’m sure we ate as many as we picked, coming back to the house with blue hands, lips and teeth. I’m also sure we dropped on the ground as many as we had in our buckets. I have pictures of the kids picking berries with their hair soaked with sweat because it is, without a doubt, a hot-weather job. Those berries are worth the trouble, believe me.
Because of our access to a blueberry patch, I have found many uses for them over the years. I’ve made muffins, breads, cakes, cobblers, pies and pancakes. I’ve also made blueberry jam. And while it was time consuming, the results were delicious.
One interesting thing about the blueberry is it is one of a very few fruits that should be washed after freezing and before using. According to the experts, washing before freezing makes the outside skin tougher. I’ll trust them on this and freeze first.
Freezing blueberries is an easy process. Lay the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet; put them in the freezer for 8 hours; and place the frozen berries in resealable, Zip-lock bags.
To thaw, just leave them in the refrigerator overnight or out at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Then wash them in a bowl of cold water, being careful to sort those with stems and the overripe ones.
This is time well spent this summer to have tasty berries all year-round.
Of all the blueberry recipes I’ve made, I have to say the lemon blueberry cream pie is among the best.
Maybe it’s because it’s a refreshing, cool dessert. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel bad eating pie that includes healthy blueberries. Or just maybe it’s because my family ate every crumb of the last pie I made.
I will tell you this, this pie is one of those desserts that’s even better the second day. If it lasts that long!
Lemon blueberry cream pie
1 prepared graham cracker crust
1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 (3-ounce) package of lemon instant pudding mix
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons blueberry preserves or jam
Whipped cream to garnish
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, milk and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in lemon pudding mix, lemon zest and lemon juice until just blended. Pour half of the lemon mixture into the graham cracker crust.
Stir together the blueberries with the blueberry preserves in a small bowl. Pour the blueberry mixture evenly over the top of lemon pie layer.
Top the blueberry layer with the other half of the lemon mixture.
Chill at least two hours. Serve with a garnish of whipped cream.
Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. She can be contacted at email@example.com.