In Season: Blueberry Bounty!
Blueberries are a lot like tomatoes and bananas these days. Like these basic produce staples, it’s unusual for a grocery store to be completely without fresh blueberries since the immense popularity of this native American fruit has given rise to global, nearly year-round production. In the fall and winter, fruit from the Southern Hemisphere (mainly Argentina and Chile) makes its way into the U.S. marketplace, but starting around the first of May, the domestic season starts, and production starts the long summer march from the Southern production areas to the northern states. By August, the U.S. production has moved to the northernmost states, with the largest amount of fruit coming from Washington State and Michigan. While northern production signals the beginning of the end for the domestic harvest season, some of the best fruit of the year comes from these parts of the U.S.
The best way to tell if it is blueberry season is by container size. When the season is just getting started (or is finishing), fruit availability is tight and the container shrinks in size (to 6 ounces or less). I call these the "single sitting" sizes because it is not unusual for someone in my family to finish the whole container in a single sitting (or even on the way home from the store if I’m shopping with my daughter). When we are in peak production, though, the volume of fruit ripening at the same time is enormous and containers can grow from a pint to 2 and even 4 pounds in size. This is the time to think about stocking up for the leaner periods — blueberries freeze very well — for pies, smoothies, or even as a cool stand-alone snack.
When selecting blueberries, you should examine the container from all angles to make sure there are not any damaged, leaky berries. You should also look for consistent size and a dark uniform purple or blue color. Fruit that is inconsistently sized or has a wide range of color shades will also have inconsistent flavor and should be avoided. Check out the slideshow for some great blueberry recipes.
— James Parker, global associate perishables coordinator for Whole Foods Market