I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like blueberries. Even a dear one who doesn’t eat any fruit whatsoever (no kidding), will eat blueberries. There’s something so irresistible: their beautiful shape – cherubic (even the little ones); the soothing color; and blend of sweetness and tang that makes them the all time winner, as far as I can tell.

As we all like to note the latest health attributes of what we ingest, blueberries are the leader of the pack when it comes to antioxidants (natural substances found in wild blueberries and other fruits and vegetables), according to the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. Research based upon the weight of the edible portion of the fruit revealed that prunes, raisins, blueberry and blackberry had the highest ORAC activity (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), followed by strawberry, plum, orange, red grape, kiwi, pink grapefruit, white grape, banana, apple, tomato, pear, and honeydew melon. And, just as an FYI, based upon the fresh weight of vegetables, garlic had the highest antioxidant capacity against peroxyl radicals (the most common radical), followed by kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts and others. Every day, the cells in our body wage a battle against free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules that can be caused by cigarette smoke, smog, pesticides, drugs, etc.) which are associated with cancer, heart disease and the effects of aging. I don’t want to get too heavy into the science because it’s WAAAY complicated, but let’s just say that blueberries are very helpful to us.

Of course there are many local farms that sell these gems, but, for me, gathering wild berries is one of the most pleasant things to do. When I come upon a secret local spot (the northwest corner has many) with rows and rows of bushes, at first the berries aren’t visible. Then, when I change focus, as if putting on night vision glasses, or looking at a situation from the opposite point of view, they all become apparent. First only a few, then each bush has so many, the urge to pick each perfectly ripe one takes over. One for the basket, one for my mouth, is usually how it goes. For some reason the berries have been ripening slowly this season, so I’ve visited several times so far and will again a few more, no doubt. The taller bushes seem to have the larger berries (“as big as nickels,” a friend says every time) – and, like the saying: “the bigger the hair, the closer to God,” they are sweet and juicy. While the mid-size and low bush varieties seem to have more distilled flavor – whether sweeter or more tart – a big mouthful of all types at once is the way to go.

 

If you can make it home without eating all of them in the car (and if you can be disciplined enough to even freeze some), they are great to stir into oatmeal, muffins, pancakes and cobblers in the winter (or even in a month when they’ve died back).

 

What I’ve been doing lately is putting them into yogurt with walnuts and really ripe peaches and bananas and, of course, making pancakes. Below is a cobbler recipe, but any pancake recipe can be embellished to make the stacks more dense, tasty and healthful. Try adding some ground flaxseed (to get your omega 3’s), vanilla extract and cornmeal to the usual mix. Also, spelt is a good substitute for regular wheat flour, if you have wheat and/or gluten sensitivities.

 

BERRY COBBLER

(Courtesy of The Kripalu Cookbook, by Atma JoAnn Levitt)

 

Filling:

6 cups fresh or thawed frozen berries (blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries)

1 cup rice syrup

2 tablespoons fresh lemon (or lime) juice

3 tablespoons arrowroot

 

Batter:

1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 ½ cups unbleached white flour

½ tablespoon baking soda

½ cup canola oil

½ cup rice syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups buttermilk or soymilk

 

To make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the berries, syrup, lemon/lime juice, and arrowroot and gently mix together until the berries are well coated. Set aside.

 

To make the batter: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together both flours and the baking soda. In a separate bowl, beat together the oil, syrup, vanilla, and buttermilk. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and mix together well (The batter may be lumpy.).

 

Pour the batter into a well oiled, 9x12 “ baking pan and spread the reserved berry mixture over the batter. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack. A scoop of vanilla ice cream per serving is highly recommended. Serves 6-8 (or fewer!!). Enjoy!!