Blueberries are one of the few edibles native to North America and credited with being particularly high in antioxidants. They’re now grown very widely internationally but the ever-increasing number of varieties marketed means there’s no reliable guide to flavour, sweetness or texture. They’re credited with many different health benefits if a handful or so is eaten every day, but this is only true if eaten raw. Cooked blueberries lose a great deal of nutrition and most also forfeit flavour; only small, sharp wild blueberries picked directly in Maine are likely to retain flavour when cooked, such as in a blueberry muffin – others more often become a purple tasteless mush.
Fresh blueberries are available from somewhere in the world throughout the year. Frozen ones are likely to have been blanched so offer less nutrition.
Choose the best
There’s no immediate clue to flavour based on colour, size, variety or country of origin; thus, it’s worth remembering the variety noted on the label when you find one you like. Check for firmness of the berries and look for any obvious softness or broken skins, which will indicate they’re not in top condition.
The high vitamin C content of fresh blueberries means they last many weeks when refrigerated.
Don’t cook blueberries, unless you’re absolutely certain the variety used will retain flavour; most varieties do not. A perfect snack by the handful, fresh blueberries make outstanding additions to breakfast cereals, pancakes and waffles, yogurts and fruit salads. They’re equally good when used as a sweet-sharp garnish to almost anything else sweet or savoury, from a slice of fresh mango to a ham salad or plate of charcuterie, from chocolate ice cream to coronation chicken. They’re especially delicious when generously whizzed up with a sharp salad dressing or crushed into mayonnaise but you might want to strain afterwards for smoothness.