Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Laura McLeod.
Nothing says summer in the Northwest like fresh blueberries and U-Picks. A friend and I have an annual summer ritual of choosing a U-Pick and loading up on the freshest, plumpest berries we can find.
This year, I took a day off work and we got an early start, heading north on I-5 to the fertile Skagit Valley. U-Picks are typically off our beaten path, so we explore the rural landscape, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of farmlands.
Our first stop was the quaint town of Edison for a healthy, endurance-building lunch. Next we headed to Bow Hill Blueberries, a family-owned farm that’s currently transitioning from conventional to organic, with just a year to go for their organic certification. A family farm since 1947, Bow Hill is also certified Salmon Safe.
Bow Hill currently grows four different types of blueberries, although here in the Northwest the varieties are extensive. Farmer Harley Soltes explained that the proper picking technique involves “tickling” the berries off the bush, much like tickling a dog’s chin. He was right; the ripe berries drop right off and those that need more time in the sun stay put.
It was impossible not to taste-test as we went from bush to bush, but after consuming a few good handfuls, our buckets were soon filled to the brim. The berries were weighed and then sent off with us in a big freezer bag. Before heading home, we made a quick stop for samples at Samish Bay Cheese, as well as a pit stop at Snow Goose Produce Market.
Enjoying the berries fresh is part of the fun, but freezing blueberries is a great way to enjoy them year-round. Most of my berries get placed in a single layer on a cookie sheet (unwashed) and put in the freezer overnight. I then pack them in freezer bags for use in smoothies and recipes throughout the year. When they’re frozen in a single layer, they don’t stick together. Just wash them when you take what you need from your freezer bag, and they’re ready to use.
I also use dried blueberries throughout the year. Almost every day, in fact. Blueberries are considered to be one of THE top superfoods for their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties so I created a mixture I ingeniously call “SuperFood” to eat with my breakfast cereal every day. It’s simply a combination of dried blueberries, coconut flakes, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and dates covered in oat flour – all considered superfoods. My blend is also fabulous on yogurt and fruit salads.
Blueberry season begins in June or July and typically lasts through September so it’s not too late to go picking! However, plan to call your chosen farm first, as the season varies by year based on weather, and different types of berries may have longer or shorter growing seasons. I use the Cascade Harvest Coalition-produced Farm Guide to locate and compare farms.
What’s your favorite way to use blueberries?
Laura McLeod is an internal communications manager at LifeWise, and is convinced that lifestyle trumps genetics. Because her genetics include many lifestyle-based illnesses, she strives to eat well, exercise and get regular check-ups. While she’s officially reached ‘mid-life,’ she believes you’re only as old as you feel. Laura lives in Ballard with her long-time partner and her energetic, playful cat.