Berry Beautiful

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Though blue is one of the most popular colors and is said to cause the body to produce calming chemicals, it is considered one of the least appetizing. Green, brown, and red are the most popular food colors. Blue food is rare in nature. Food researchers say that when early humans searched for food, they learned to avoid toxic or spoiled objects, which were often blue, black, or purple. When food dyed blue is served to study subjects, they lose appetite.

One exceptional blue food is the remarkable blueberry. I first encountered blueberries in the little cans packed with muffin mix. Those soft, canned berries have to be handled with care; they’re fragile and turn muffin batter blue-gray.

I was accustomed to picking strawberries or the blackberries that randomly rambled in patches around the farm. The long-sleeved shirts we sacrificed for berry picking were snared by every reach I made. Days after, I was reminded of the nasty job by the scratches and scrapes that came with it.

I discovered the fresh blueberry experience in a patch across from the Zion Hill Church north of Columbiana. Dad was acquainted with a woman who attended the church. On the honor system, we picked from blueberry bushes growing on church property across the road from the church. That was the easiest, cleanest berry picking I’d ever done.

One day this summer after Bible school, my friend Nancy and I rediscovered the joy of blueberry picking at Dillon’s Fruit Farm. We carried appropriately blue plastic buckets to the berry patch where Jim Dillon lifted a blanket of protective netting, allowing us to slip between rows of berry bushes. A sumptuous feast the birds were being denied was within easy reach.

I stood in one spot and dropped cupfuls of firm, plump blueberries in my pail (all several times the size of those canned for muffin mix) with no cramped, contorted posture, no juice under my fingernails, and no brambles pricking my skin or caught in my shirt. I decided these must be God’s miracle berries.

Since blueberries are one if the few fruits native to North America, it’s amazing to me that only in recent years have they come into their own in the food world. The nutritional benefits of eating blueberries become more evident as research continues. Not limited as an ingredient in sweet baked goods or a breakfast cereal complement, blueberries add beauty and flavor to salads and special zest to savory meat sauces. I pop them like any snack, packing handfuls in a little cup to take in my lunch.

If you missed Andrea Zippay’s article about the Steve and Lisa Beilstein’s blueberry farm in Richland County, (July 17, 2008, Farm and Dairy) click through and read it.

The blueberry month of July is coming to a close, but some varieties produce into September. They freeze (and thaw) easily. Why not celebrate this beautiful berry all year long?

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