Local farms offer varieties of the nutritious berry

Adrienne Freeman/Contributing writer Originally Published July 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated July 9, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.
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Adrienne Freeman

Fresh blueberries are deliciously juicy and complement sweet and savory recipes. As a bonus, the berries are chock-full of antioxidants and phytonutrients that make blueberries good for you, as well as tasty.

The short but succulently sweet Arkansas blueberry season is right on track to shine during July Belongs to Blueberries Month. The “Little Blue Dynamo” is available all over the state in nearly a dozen varieties and in colors ranging from deep purple to blue-black, most veiled with a silvery sheen called a “bloom.”

“We have a nontraditional farm,” said Beth Eggers, co-owner with her husband, Butch, of Wye Mountain Flower and Berry Farm in Bigelow. “After specializing in flowers for almost 10 years, we started growing berries in 2008. This is our third year to harvest. We have had a fabulous season. We have two varieties that haven’t even matured yet — we have three to four more weeks of picking.”

At the farm, nestled near the border of Pulaski and Perry counties, devotees can pick juicy blueberries and blackberries from 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday, as long as the crop is producing. Eggers has also brought her colorful blooms and berries to the Little Rock Farmers’ Market each Tuesday and Saturday for the past 16 years.

George Friedrich of Searcy’s Blueberry Fields Forever has been growing blueberries — along with strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupe and watermelon — since 1985. His White County farm has a U-Pick option, but he sells most of his crop to farm stands throughout Arkansas and to Kroger stores.

Asked about his start in the berry business, he said matter-of-factly, “I started out to grow sod; I still do. But I had some land that I couldn’t grow sod on, and I found that it was good for berries. I have been growing them ever since.”

The buzz on blueberries has been big in recent years — they pack a nutritional punch. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the fruit is low in calories and high in antioxidants and minerals. Blueberries are thought to improve nighttime vision and even help alleviate the short-term memory loss associated with aging.

Fresh Triple-Berry Pie

Beth Eggers, co-owner of Wye Mountain Flower and Berry Farm in Bigelow, submitted this recipe, which uses a mixture of fresh Arkansas berries.

Ingredients:

1 prepared 9-inch graham-cracker crust

2 to 3 cups of fresh mixed Arkansas raspberries, blueberries and blackberries

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (3-ounce) package raspberry gelatin

Whipped cream or whipped topping

Directions:

Stir together cornstarch and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan; slowly whisk in water. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, for 7 to 8 minutes or until mixture thickens.

Mix raspberry gelatin and vanilla into the warm cornstarch mixture.

Spoon berries into pie crust. Pour glaze evenly over berries, pressing down gently with a spoon to be sure all berries are coated. Chill for 2 1/2 hours. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon confectioners’ or turbinado sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time; then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Sprinkle half of this mixture over the batter in the pan. Spoon remaining batter over the top; then sprinkle the remaining pecan mixture over the batter. Use a knife or thin spatula to swirl the sugar layer into the cake.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the crown of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate, and tap firmly to remove the cake from the pan. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

BLUEBERRY SANGRIA

Adapted from the Oregon Blueberry Association

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups commercial blueberry or pomegranate juice

1 1/2 cups chilled white wine or apple juice

1/4 cup orange liqueur (optional)

1 orange, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups chilled lemon-lime soda

Directions:

In a 2-quart pitcher, combine blueberry juice, wine and liqueur, if used. Add orange and lemon slices and fresh blueberries. Chill until ready to serve. Just before serving, stir in soda.

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