Blueberries. Little balls of juicy goodness. The color. What else do we eat that is blue (and no blue M&M’s do not count!)? We Americans love our blueberries and why not? They are more American than apple pie. Blueberries are native to our soil. Pancakes and muffins have never known a better addition than the blueberry. That doesn’t mean that everything is all “blueberries and cream”. Often we go to the store and pick some out, not knowing whether we are headed to blueberry nirvana or extreme disappointment. My goal today is to help stir your experience more toward the former and less toward the latter. Let’s learn how to find good blueberries at the store.
A Berry from Many Places
One of the challenges of finding good blueberries in the store is all the locations blueberries are shipped in from. No other berry is grown commercially in more places. Nearly all the blackberries are form Mexico. The raspberries are a mix between Mexico and California. Strawberries are the same with a significant crop from Florida. The blueberry. I have seen them from California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, Maine, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Chile, Argentina, and I am sure some that I forgot. That really is quite a selection of places. Forget the berries, I can’t think of any produce item in the major grocery stores that comes from more places. That is a testament to the blueberry and it’s popularity.
Since blueberries are from so many places, the quality can vary quite a bit. Knowing when blueberries are in season will help (check out my handy dandy guide to when blueberries are in season).
How to Find Good Blueberries at the Store?
When selecting blueberries here are some things to look for.
The whitish color that surrounds fresh blueberries is called bloom. This is the natural protection of the fruit. You will know the blueberries are fresh if you see this in the package. As times goes on this will naturally fade away. Also it’s easy to whip off with your hands. If the blueberries are handled too much it will be gone as well.
Size isn’t always an indicator of quality. I do have to say that really small berries are almost always go to be on the tart side. I tend to find that the biggest berries are sweet and my favorite. It is not an exact science. I tend to buy large sized berries especially if their bloom is still intact.
You never want to see pink on the berries (unless they are the pink lemonade blueberry variety). This means the berries left the bush prematurely – compromising both flavor and sweetness.
4. No Wrinkles
Any blueberry that is wrinkled is surely old. The texture will be mush. Unless they are going straight into smoothies and are super cheap, leave the fruit at the store.
Taste Test Before You Buy
Most of us would never buy a car without test driving it first. I say we can apply that same concept to blueberries. If you are concerned whether your blues are going to be good or not, ask one of the employees at the store if you can sample one. Any store that is worth shopping at will be more than willing to accommodate your request.
Don’t Forget the Dried Blueberries
When you aren’t finding good fresh blueberries in the store, you can always pick up some dried ones. I love dried blueberries. I use them in recipes like I would raisins. I especially love the dried wild blueberries found at Trader Joe’s – they are pricey but worth it to get your blueberry fix in the winter.
In the summer time when blueberries are in season here in the mitten state, I buy them buy the tons. $3.99 for a 2 pound clamshell container is not unheard of, with pints being around a $1. That is a great excuse to use them in as many recipes as I have time for. Pancakes are always a must. Here are some recipes that I have featured on the blog in past years: