Blueberries are nature's wonder food. They're a powerhouse of nutrients, loaded with vitamins C and E as well as riboflavin, folate and niacin. They've also been found to contain antioxidants and might help in preventing age-related memory loss.
All that in a handful of little, deliciously sweet berries. And the fresher they are, the better they are for you.
Fortunately for us, there are plenty of blueberry growers in our area where you can either enjoy a family outing to pick your own or to buy them freshly picked. Some orchards offer both with the prepicked, naturally, a little higher in price.
Simone Kilpatrick of The Blueberry Farm in LaFayette, Ga., says all the spring rains really helped plump up this year's blueberry harvest.
"The plants are loaded with berries," she says. "The fields look great."
And, she says, berry picking is at its peak right now. So pick the nearest berry farm near you, or if there's not one close by, make a day of it and take a drive.
Here's a list of area growers. For more, go online to www.pickyourown.org.
• Morris Vineyard & Tennessee Mountainview Winery, 346 Union Grove Road, Charleston, Tenn. 479-7311 or 618-2173.
• Schwab's Blueberries, 4407 Highway 127 S., Crossville, Tenn., 931-261-1951.
• Bollenbacher Blueberries, 445 Old Sweetwater Road, Sweetwater, Tenn., 423-337-9562.
• Thedford's Blueberry Patch, 100 John Deere Lane, Spring City, Tenn., 423-365-5764 or 423-847-7510.
• Billings Blueberry Ridge, 1059 Radio Springs Road, Rome, Ga., 706-506-4527 or 706-235-7022.
• Fox Blueberry Farm, 863 Owens Chapel Road, Calhoun, Ga., 706-629-1085.
• Prewitt Berry Farm, 1085 River Road, Chatsworth, Ga., 706-695-2261.
• The Blueberry Farm, 1363 Highway 151, LaFayette, Ga., 706-638-0908.
Now for a delicious blueberry recipe. I found this one at allrecipes.com and had to try it. The picture looked scrumptious and the recipe sounded simple, particularly because it needs to be made a day ahead. It was perfect for my recent family reunion. With all the kids home, it was gone in no time.
12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (French or other sturdy bread)
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup fresh blueberries
12 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon butter
Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream-cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese; top with remaining bread cubes.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and syrup (see note). Pour over the bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the bread-cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the mixture, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, or until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour over the baked French toast. Or serve syrup separately.
Note: Though the recipe didn't call for it, it needs cinnamon, so I added 2 teaspoons to the egg mixture before pouring it over the bread. A sprinkling of cinnamon sugar over the French toast after baking also added a nice touch.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.