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From Our Backyard: East Texas Blueberries

My childhood was pretty great. It just didn’t seem that way at the time. I was unnecessarily angst-ridden at an early age. I would throw The Cure into my Walkman, stare morosely at the ceiling, and spend hours dreaming about the day I would get out of my east Texas town and make a meteor-sized mark on the world.  But looking back now, I had it pretty good. Especially in those pre-teen years.  There was lots of skipping stones on ponds, reading books in the crooks of trees, playing hide-and-go-seek in cotton patches, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables pulled right out of the ground or pulled right off of the bushes.

Some of my fondest childhood rituals and memories involve blueberries. Summer would finally be getting good and hot. But the heat would still be so new, we wouldn’t mind yet. We were just grateful that another winter was in our rearview mirror. And we would feel the same way about summer come October.

But early June was the beginning and always meant blueberries. The Schivers family would all pile into the car and trek to a u-pick farm outside of town. Along the way, there’d be some discussion about whether this crop would be as good as last year, maybe a few bets made. But always there was anticipation. Blueberries should be eaten in June when they’re sweetest, juiciest, tastiest, and can be found growing on bushes close enough to home to go get them yourself.

I don’t live near a u-pick farm anymore, but I’m lucky I work at FRESH. We have Texas blueberries grown not far from here, with that same unmistakable sweet taste that reminds me of childhood treks and the blueberry ice cream that would soon be made from the bounty.

Now I can appreciate the fact that blueberries are also good for you. They have more antioxidants than any other fresh fruit. They’ve got lots of fiber, keeping your heart healthy. Blueberries have the same chemicals as cranberries, the ones that help keep your urinary tract on track. Well-researched studies also suggest that these little berries can help prevent some cancers, improve vision, and stave off age-related mental decline.

But the best benefit to me: they’re darn tasty. Especially when you make them into an ice cream, like this one from Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine – a cookbook with my favorite ice cream recipes.

Blueberry Ice Cream
6 cups fresh ripe blueberries, rinsed and stemmed
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups heavy cream
3 cups light cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mash blueberries with a fork. Add cup of sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until berries are soft (about 5 minutes). Let cool.

Stir creams together. Dissolve remaining sugar and the salt in the cream mixture. Add vanilla and berries. Freeze according to ice-cream maker directions.