In my home state of North Carolina, blueberry season has begun and these local berries are especially sweet, delicious and best of all, healthy. North Carolina is the 4th largest blueberry producing state and ranks 5th in average yield.
Blueberry Quick Facts:
- Blueberries are a nutrition powerhouse as they are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants which are important to overall health and disease prevention.
- They are also packed with vitamin C and lots of fiber (4g).
- Research is also showing that blueberries may also help to improve motor skills and memory loss associated with age related diseases.
- Low in calories – only 80 calories per cup.
This weekend I had the chance to sit and talk with Dede Wilson, cookbook author, Contributing Editor at Bon Appetit and frequent guest on various television talk shows, about the many ways to use blueberries in desserts as well as savory side dishes. Dede was in town visiting several Lowes Food Stores and sharing her many blueberry secrets and recipes.
Typically I had always thought of blueberries in a sweet dish, but when she shared this fabulous Blueberry Couscous Salad with Mango and Lemon dressing from Driscolls, I knew this was something I wanted to try. It’s easy to fix and real winner for a light, healthy and tasty side dish. I made it in advance and kept chilled until ready to serve so it was extra refreshing as compared to a hot side dish.
Bluberry Couscous Salad with Mango & Lemon Dressing
1/2 cups orange juice
1/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 cups whole wheat couscous
1 package Blueberries
1 cup fresh mango cubes
1/3 cups chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoons ground black pepper
Combine orange juice, water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in couscous; cover, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Transfer couscous to a bowl and fluff with a fork; cool 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, blueberries, mango, onion, mint, lemon juice, oil and pepper; mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.
But Dede’s real passion is baking so she also shared her signature Blueberry Crème Fraiche Tart she created for her “Unforgettable Desserts” cookbook. Using the everyday baking ingredients like sugar, flour, eggs, blueberries in addition to creme fraiche, you can decide if you want to use organic options for this festive dessert featuring a sweet tart crust with the addition of poppy seed.
Whatever you decide, keep this in mind when selecting blueberries:
- Look for berries that are dry, plump, round and free of dents and bruises.
- Ever notice the soft, hazy white coating,? This is called “bloom.” Bloom is a completely natural part of the berries’ defense mechanism and helps protect them from the harsh rays of the sun.
- Avoid blueberries that are shriveled or lack bloom.
- And double check the PLU number code on the package (or those sticky labels on fruits and vegetables) if you want to make sure you are getting organic or conventional. If it starts with a 9 it’s organic, 4 is conventional and 8 is genetically modified.
Food for thought! Enjoy!