If you’re lucky enough to be staying at one of our member North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns over the next few weeks, we predict you’ll be sampling fresh-picked blueberries on the breakfast menu. According to the NC Agriculture Commissioner, the state’s blueberry crop will be one of the best in years and blueberries should be available for picking into July.
There’s plenty of local heritage associated with North Carolina blueberries, where recipes for pies, cobblers, syrups and jams have been passed down the generations. Most don’t realize it, but North Carolina is the 7th largest grower of blueberries in the US, producing an average of 41 million pounds of the fruit from the mountains to the coast. Thats-a-lottsa blueberries!
The health benefits tucked into the small, but mighty, blueberry are widely reported. They’re packed with antioxidants, vitamin C and other good things. As innkeepers, we get great pleasure doing our parts to get them into your diet when you come stay with us. Be sure to ask your innkeeper for their favorite recipes.
Here’s a dessert recipe for Blueberry Cloud from 1889 WhiteGate Inn & Cottage (near Asheville).
We’ve also included these delicious blueberry recipes in the new NC Bed and Breakfast cookbook.
Innkeepers are masters of this fruit. Many members even grow their own blueberries. They’re easier to grow than most people realize. As for prep and storage, according to innkeeper experts we asked, you need to decide what you plan to do with them before you know the best way to handle them after picking.
The simple rule of thumb is NOT to wash fresh blueberries unless you know you’re going to eat them within a few days. If you wash them before freezing, it makes the skins toughen up.
If you plan to eat them within a few days:
Pick out any damaged, dirty or moldy blueberries. Wash and put into a bowl lined with a paper towel.
If you need to store them longer than a few days:
Toss any damaged, dirty or moldy ones, but DO NOT WASH. Store in breathable container in a cool, moist area of the refrigerator. Wash just prior to eating or using in your a recipe.
One of the nicest things about blueberries is that they freeze and thaw beautifully without losing their flavors.
If you plan to freeze your blueberries:
Do NOT wash. Remove the stems, leaves and any damaged berries. Arrange in a single layer in a cookie sheet or pan. Freeze. Once frozen, bag them, removing as much air as possible. If you have a vacuum sealer, all the better.
If you time your NC getaway between late June and mid-July this year, consider adding one of the U-Pick Blueberry Farms to your “Fun Things To Do in NC” list. Here’s a link to the U-Pick Farms by county.
And find everything you ever wanted to know about North Carolina blueberries here (including lots more recipes!)
But wait, there’s more — the bonus of blackberries!
Because of the late season freezes this year, blueberries are running about 3 weeks behind. That means they’ll be ripening around the same time as blackberries. This is an unexpected bonus — time to double your pleasure.
If you’re near Lenoir, NC on July 11th, the 14th Annual NC Blackberry Festival is always a fun time. There’s the crowing of the Blackberry Princess, a blackberry-eating contest and the world’s largest Patchwork of Blackberry Cobbler – where everyone shares in the cobbler afterward.