We are right in the middle of the blueberry season. They are native to North America. Harvest starts in June peaking in the middle of August. Of course, they can be found year-round with those imported. It is always the right growing season somewhere.

Commercially, approximately 40% of what is called highbush blueberries are grown in the United States. Highbush are tall cultivated bushes. Canada is known for its lowbush blueberries. They grow on low scrubs and are synonymous with “wild” types.

One of the first colonies to cultivate blueberries was what was come to be known as New Jersey. Hammonton is the self-proclaimed “blueberry capital of the world. There are 56 blueberry farms located with Hammonton as its core. The town’s population is only around 14,000.

The area features festivals and events centering around blueberries. In the 1980s the Red, White & Blueberry Festival was established. This brings thousands to the area during the summer months.

It takes 10 days for the berries to reach their peak after the first bud. It takes some patience waiting for them to reach the sweet peak we like to eat them at. Size does not determine if ripe — it is the color. The darker the purple the riper.

Today, Peru is the major exporter of blueberries. The U.S. ranks sixth as exporters and imports berries from other countries. Blueberries are grown in 38 states with Michigan leading the list. It seems Pennsylvania is not anywhere near the top.

When I was a kid, there were summer playgrounds. The two I attended were Morris Street and Reeves Park. Reeves Park was the one that had the most activities and crafts. It was due to the dynamic instructors — Peggy Keenan and Marty McCabe. There was always something fun going on.

There is where I encounter a kid — about 10 years old. I do not know how the word blueberry came up (but it must have). He could say blue — but when adding berry — he could only say “boo-berry” no matter how hard he tried he could not say blueberry.

Blueberries were originally used as a dye. (Whales from New England once dyed garments.) Today, blueberries are predominately used in culinary avenues. Sold or quickly processed as whole fruits, juice or puree — then there is dried and infused. They are made into jelly, jams, muffins, pies, snack foods and cereals.

Blueberries are high in potassium and vitamin C — they act as an anti-inflammatory. As well as being low in calories, one cup is only 85 calories. One cup is a lot of berries due to their size.

EASY BLUEBERRY CRISP

5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 lemon

TOPPING ...

¼ cup softened butter

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup regular or quick oats

¼ tsp. cinnamon

½ cup chopped almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 378-degrees.

Grate the rind of the lemon and squeeze the juice from half of the lemon.

Toss berries* with sugar, lemon rind, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons flour. Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish/pan.

For topping combine with fork-softened butter, brown sugar, oats, flour, cinnamon and (optional) nuts until crumbled. Sprinkle over berry mixture. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and berries bubbly. Cool slightly and serve warm. For an added treat serve with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

*This crisp recipe is for blueberries – but the recipe could be used for other berries.

TIP: Blueberries sprinkled over a crispy leaf salad (as shown in the picture) adds a tasty brightest.

STAY SAFE – REMEMBER SOCIAL DISTANCING IS STILL NECESSARY AS WELL AS BEING VACCINATED

Contact columnist Bette Banjack at banjack303.verizon.net. Search YouTube – with BetteBanjack as well as phoenixvillenews.com (search bar Banjack). She can also be found on Facebook.

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