There’s a glut of blueberries on the market this week. As big as marbles, deep purple with a soft downy bloom, you’ll notice straight away that this year’s is a crop of giants.
“That’s because of all the rain this year,” says Richard Hodgeson of Hodgeson Farms. “They need a lot of water, and this year at the perfect time, when they were small and green, we had all that rain. We got lucky, I guess.”
Blueberries are picked by hand from shrub-like bushes. At Hodgeson Farms, they grow a variety called High Bush, which grow to be over six feet tall, making the berries easier to pick. “Sometimes I help out with the picking,” says Hodgeson, “but I like to stop and eat as many as I pick. My favorite thing is to cut off a small branch and suck the berries right off between my teeth. I just love blueberries! I hate to think how many I eat every day during the season.”
Look for plump, firm berries — no squishy ones — that still have their downy coating. Once they’re washed and the white haze vanishes, they start to soften, so the best plan is to store them unwashed until just before you want to eat them.
Blueberries lend themselves to pies and compotes. A sprinkling of sugar and enough heat to make the berries burst and release their juices is all to the good. Grate half an apple for every pint of blueberries, and use the same weight of berries in sugar (maybe a bit less if you prefer less sweet flavors) to make a simple thick-set jam.
The tartness of blueberries means they pair well with savory flavors. Try dressing smoked mackerel with a vinaigrette made from mashed berries, lemon, and olive oil.
Add them to green salads, or to hearty grain salads. How about quinoa, kale, chopped almonds, blueberries, and a grating of ricotta salata?
For a walk on the sweet-savory line, try toasting baguette slices, topping with fresh ricotta and blueberries with a grind of pepper and the merest drizzle of honey or balsamic glaze.
Blueberries can be usefully muddled into a Pimm’s cup, a mojito, or a gin-and-soda with lime, or smashed into iced tea, mashed into sweetened Greek yogurt, or frozen to make ice pops. You’ll want a friend on teeth-watch, but check out the Blueberry Corn People’s Pop (West 15th Street and Tenth Avenue). Sweet, tart, summer in a lick.