It’s July. Blueberries are ready in July. Let’s talk about blueberries.
Port Coquitlam and Coquit-lam are home to acres and acres of blueberry farms. They grow really well out by the Pitt River. The low water table makes the land unusable for a lot of other crops but blueberries love it.
According to the BC Blueberry Council, there are more than 11,300 hectares (28,000 acres) nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountains devoted to growing upwards of 77 million kg (170 million lb.), with production increasing steadily.
This makes British Columbia one of the largest high-bush blueberry-growing regions in the world, with Canada the third top producing country, and still growing.
Which makes the area great for bears, too. A bike ride out to Minnekhada will undoubtedly lead to a bear sighting or two.
And even bears know that blueberries are super healthy. A mere half cup contains 44 calories and is a great source of Vitamin C, K, folate, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and calcium. On top of all that, blueberries have been shown to improve insulin response, reduce the growth of breast and colon cancer cells, reverse memory loss and reduce blood pressure. Pretty impressive for a little blue berry.
Do you know what is involved in growing them? We have a couple of bushes in the backyard and judging by the yield this year, there is more to it than just planting them and watering them.
My conversation with Jasbir of Mandair farms yielded a wealth of information. Most importantly, the pH content of the soil is critical to healthy plants.
Healthy plants produce well. A pH level between 4 and 5 is ideal. If it’s too high, you can add sulphur to lower it. Nitrogen is important, too, as that encourages flower production, and you won’t get berries if you don’t have flowers. Blueberries really like peaty soil, too, which is why they grow so well around here and Richmond.
There are so many types of berries. The earliest are the Duke — they are big and sweet but you can only pick them once. The next is often the Blue crop — a bit tarter and very prolific, so you can pick them three times. Jas’ favourite, though, are the last crop, the Blue Gold, which bear lots of fruit and are easy to pick.
Many of the vendors at both the Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam farmers’ market sell blueberries. The farmers are happy to give you a taste of their fruit. Go around and try them all and you will be able to find your favourite.
Now is the time to stock up because blueberries freeze so well. They can be added to muffins, pancakes, parfaits… the list is endless.
If you want a treat at market, aside from eating them out of the box, grab a turmeric muffin from Samaya Delights and stuff them in the middle!
--Karen Curtis is the Lemonade Lady (www.kicslemonade.ca and kicslemonade.blogspot.ca) at the Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam farmers markets. Her column runs monthly.
RECIPES: SALSA AND SALAD
Enjoy these two blueberry recipes. The salsa is great with chicken or cheese.
MARKET FRESH BLUEBERRY SALSA
2 cups fresh blueberries, lightly mashed
½ cup diced red or green onion
¼ cup Aji, heat level of your choice
2 tbsp KICS lime syrup (or lime juice)
2 tbsp chopped basil (optional)
Combine all ingredients and let rest for an hour or so to let the flavours mingle
QUINOA FRUIT SALAD
(with thanks to twopeasandtheirpod.com)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
FOR THE HONEY GRAPEFRUIT DRESSING:
¼ cup KICS grapefruit syrup (or grapefruit juice)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
FOR THE FRUIT:
4-5 cups mixed seasonal fruit
• Using a strainer, rinse the quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa, water and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Let quinoa cool to room temperature. (You can also add ¼ cup of grapefruit juice to the cooking water to intensify the flavour. Just make sure you only add 1 ¾ cups water if you do.)
• To make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk the juice, honey, and mint together until combined.
• In a large bowl, combine quinoa and fruit. Pour dressing over the fruit salad and mix until well combined. Garnish with additional mint and a dollop of Greek yogurt if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Note: Use your favourite fruit in this salad. Blackberries, peaches, kiwi, raspberries, grapes, etc. are all great options.