Celebrate Blueberries with Summertime Blueberry Salsa

Since 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized July as National Blueberry Month — and for good reason! This powerful little fruit contains only 80 calories per 1-cup serving and it is an excellent source of vitamin C (providing almost 25 percent of the daily requirement), is high in manganese (a mineral important for bone development) and is a good source of dietary fiber. Not to mention that blueberries contain virtually no fat and are low in sodium.

Oh, and their signature blue color? That's due to powerful antioxidants that may protect against cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline.

So why celebrate blueberries in July? Blueberries are harvested from mid-April through early October, but the harvest reaches its peak in July. This is also the month when you can enjoy picking your own blueberries at many farms around the country. But even if you miss out on blueberries in July, there's good news: fresh blueberries can be found in stores almost year-round, thanks to South American shipments from November through March.

2 Fun Facts about Blueberries

  • Blueberries are one of the few fruits that are native to North America.
  • Native Americans were the first to enjoy blueberries for baking, cooking and medicinal purposes. They referred to blueberries as "star berries" because the blossom end of each berry (the calyx) forms a perfect five-point star.

Tips for Picking Blueberries

Fresh blueberries should be firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned. Look for blueberries with a waxy, silvery-white surface coating. Known as the "bloom," this coating serves as a barrier against insects and bacteria and helps seal in moisture. The bloom is a sign of freshness since it fades with time and handling.

Also, look for a deep purple-blue to blue-black color. There should be no leaves or stems. Avoid eating reddish blueberries — they aren’t ripe and will not ripen once picked. Stray away from berries that appear soft, shriveled or have any signs of mold.

If you're choosing frozen blueberries, look for ones that feel loose and not clumped together in the bag. Non-clumping berries indicate they were quick-frozen individually. This makes it easier to remove a few at a time when fresh blueberries aren't available.

How to Store Blueberries

Fresh blueberries should be refrigerated and stored in the original plastic pack or in a covered bowl. Wait to wash your blueberries until right before eating. Consume within 10 days of purchase.

If you choose to stock up on fresh blueberries in July, freeze them to enjoy later! If you prefer to rinse them before freezing, make sure blueberries are completely dry before placing in the freezer. If you prefer not to rinse before freezing, remember to wash them after thawing prior to use. Store in the freezer in resealable plastic bags. Frozen fresh blueberries will last in the freezer for up to six months. You can also purchase pre-washed, frozen blueberries from the grocery store, which are best to use within 10 months.

To thaw frozen blueberries, simply cover, refrigerate and use within three days.


Summertime Blueberry Salsa

Recipe by Marsi Shapiro, RD, CNSC, CDN

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • ½ avocado, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped red, yellow or orange pepper
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and membrane removed, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt, pepper and additional lime juice as needed.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
  3. Serve with whole-grain pita or tortilla chips, or place on top of grilled chicken, meat or fish.
Marsi Shapiro, BASC, RD, CNSC, CDN on PinterestMarsi Shapiro, BASC, RD, CNSC, CDN on Twitter
Marsi Shapiro, BASC, RD, CNSC, CDN
Marsi Shapiro, BASC, RD, CNSC, CDN, is a registered dietitian with a focus on cardiac health, weight management and diabetes. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.