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True blue
Blueberry season underway in New Hampshire

07/25/13
By Emily Hoyt food@hippopress.com



7/23/2013 - When it comes to blueberries, size does matter.
 
Now ready for picking, local farmers say blueberries vary in taste depending on their size.
 
“It seems like people go for the larger berries because they look better to the eye,” said Anne Lake, an owner of Berrybogg Farm in Strafford. “But when I take them to the smaller berries, they realize how lovely they are, too.”
 
Generally, farmers said, the larger blueberries are better for cooking because of their tart taste, while the smaller, sweeter berries are more preferable for pickers to eat raw. Lake said picking good berries is all about customer preference.
 
“You’re looking for a berry that’s certainly all blue around, and when touching them they’re firm,” she said. “And we do ask people to try a variety and see if they like it. That’s more or less how we go.”
 
The many varieties of blueberries, too, can have very different tastes, she said.
 
Stephanie Fischer, owner of Firebird Farm in Lee, also said the best size is based on what the customer wants.
 
“There are some larger berries that are very, very sweet,” she said. “Sometimes people prefer the smaller berries in blueberry muffins, but sometimes people like the bigger ones because they’re a little more juicy.” 
 
For first-time pickers, Fischer said it is important to make sure the blueberries are ripe.
 
“Sometimes people have  a hard time differentiating  what a ripe one looks like,” she said. “They pick the ones that have cranberry-blush to them, and  those are super tart. [The blueberries] really have to be that blue color — they really need to be totally blue to be ripe and the best for eating.”
 
According to NH.com’s “Pick Your Own” section, here are some tips about picking blueberries: 
 
Select plump blueberries with a light gray-blue color; any redness indicates the fruit isn’t yet fully ripened.
 
White and green blueberries will not ripen after they are picked.
 
Darker, red or purple berries may continue to ripen (at room temperature) after they are picked.
 
Cut a bunch of mostly ripe berries and roll your fingers over them. The ripe berries will fall into your container.
 
Blueberries are popular every season because of their versatility, farmers said. Many consumers add them to muffins, pies, cobblers, and jams and jellies, but the berries can also be added to smoothies, gingerbread batter, pancakes, and other treats. They can also be eaten raw or frozen. 
 
“People like the quick and simple things in warm weather,” Lake said. “So they put them in muffins and pies. Some people like frozen better than freshly picked — they just melt in your mouth, and you can put them in your cereal, use them for cooking, and it works out beautifully.”
 
Fischer said being meticulous about how the berries are frozen will help ensure their taste and consistency are at peak when they’re consumed. 
 
“We have some customers that freeze berries and spread them out on a cookie sheet so then they all freeze individually and they don’t get mushy,” she said. “That’s a preferred method to freeze them.”
 
Fisher said the berries are largely consumed because of their health benefits.
 
“Over the last five to eight years, they’ve become a little more popular based on the health discoveries and their antioxidants,” she said. “They brought a new type of consumer into the market for blueberries, [because] they’re healthy for you.” 





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