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New England Memories Are Incomplete Without Wild Blueberries

Sunny Jennings shares plenty of wonderful dishes on her blog Tantra Cooking. Tantra, a method of cooking that puts the focus on the process of making the meal, allows us to combine our passion for whole, healthy food with the personal relationships that truly sustain us. 

Jennings says wild blueberries are her favorite fruit, and calls them “naturally sweet and perfect.” This week, she shares her New England memories of wild blueberry picking and cooking, exclusively with Wild About Health.

I REMEMBER EVERYTHING about living in the hills of New England through a rosy glow of nostalgia, especially summers, my many, wonderful girlfriends and blueberry season.

We all anticipated wild blueberry season and would begin getting together our recipes weeks ahead. Old recipes had been handed down through the families, new ones were usually clipped from Yankee Magazine and many were experimental works in progress. While we ate blueberries every day of the season, one day each August my friends and blueberries came together. It was magic.

Although I lived in the verdant hills far from a city, I was blessed to live in a neighborhood with other houses nearby. Most had women near my age and all were wonderful cooks or bakers. Each year, we would plan a morning hike on our closest mountain. We carried empty bags up the mountain and brought back down bags filled with wild blueberries for an all-afternoon baking event. Often, it rained on those mornings, which only seemed to make the event even more special. Picture us: no make up, hair yanked back under baseball caps, blue teeth and tongues, wet clothes and muddy boots. Yes, these are the girls gone wild for blueberries.

While I routinely used blueberries all kinds of ways, that day was dedicated to deserts and lots of sugar!

Sunny Jennings, “The Tantra Cook”

We each had several quarts to work with and the six kitchens closest to one another became a communal culinary site. We cooked that way for other large events, however, one Saturday each August, we created the largest wild blueberry test kitchen on the planet. Or, so we told ourselves. We told stories, caught up on our news, laughed, experimented, carefully or casually measured ingredients, shared equipment and gently critiqued each creation as it reached its optimal temperature. We loved our time together, and each of us carried timers hooked to our waists to remind us to race back and check on whatever was in the oven or refrigerator. Amazingly, we never lost a dish to inattention. Hot crumbles and crisps, warm pies, cakes and chilled trifles, came out beautifully as the native girls passed their generations of family knowledge on how to work with wild blueberries. For one day each year, we didn’t worry about whether our jeans would zip the following week and delved into pure yummy.

None of us had secret ingredients or recipes we refused to share. That isn’t the New England way, and we were all about helping one another develop even better recipes.
Now that I no longer live there, I keep my eyes open for wild blueberries, and I’m thrilled to have found them at better produce outlets. Not only do they allow me to feel connected to my wonderful friends in New England, but each is a sweet gift of flavor as it bursts in my mouth. It’s easy to forget how healthful they are! Over the years, I’ve cut back on the mountains of sugar we used during our blueberry baking marathons. Fortunately, blueberries don’t actually need sugar to sweeten them. They are naturally sweet,
naturally perfect.

We all have our favorite pie and crumble recipes, so today, I’ve included an updated recipe that is so healthy, I can enjoy it nearly every day. It’s a Wild Blueberry and Quinoa.

Add spice to your life in the kitchen.

Sunny Jennings, at www.Tantracooking.com.

Wild Blueberry and Quinoa Parfait

Most of my girlfriends from the gym begin their days with Greek yogurt, granola and blueberries. That’s a great start before our workouts. I’ve switched over to this quinoa recipe, which has the added benefit of Omega-3s.  Also, the use of honey and walnuts reminds me of wonderful Greek deserts.

By cooking the quinoa the night before, I can assemble the dish, eat and get in half a workout before I wake up!

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