Blueberry season is here: Are you prepared?

By ANGELA TREADAWAY / Guest Columnist

Blueberries are plentiful this year and a very good source of those great antioxidants, so why not pick some to use in recipes and also to freeze for later use?

Did you know?

July is National Blueberry Month in the United States.

Blueberry muffins are the most popular muffin in the United States.

A single bush can produce as many as 6,000 blueberries a year.

Only 3 fruits are native to North America: blueberries, cranberries and concord grapes.

Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council

Ready or Not —

How Ripe?

Some fruits should be picked or bought when they are at the ideal stage for eating because they do not continue to ripen after picking.

These include apples, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, tangerines and watermelon.

Other fruits continue to ripen after they are picked: apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains and plums. Tomatoes also continue to ripen after picking.

To speed the ripening of fruits such as peaches, pears and plums, put them in a ripening bowl or in a loosely closed brown paper bag at room temperature.

Plastic bags don’t work for ripening.

Freezing the blues

Freeze blueberries for long-term storage. Some people prefer to freeze berries without washing to avoid moisture on the berries from breaking down the cell walls.

Wash the frozen berries before using. Other people prefer to wash the berries before freezing them so that they are ready to use when you take them out of the freezer.

Be sure to dry them thoroughly between towels before freezing.

It is ideal to freeze berries on a tray before packing into bags or boxes.

This allows you to easily remove the amount you want at one time.

Frozen blueberries can be used later to make jams, syrup or in baking.

Most of the berries will probably be used to top off cereal or sprinkle in pancakes or muffins.

Angela Treadaway is the Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety Preservation and Preparation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She can be reached at 410-3696.