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Why Wild Blueberries Should Be Part of Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Beat the Beige, Give Turkey Its Tang & Give Thanks for Wild Blues

Wild blue turkey head by tibchris, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  tibchris 

You may think harvest season marks the one time of year when wild blueberries truly get their due. But if your idea of wild blues is stuck in August, it’s time to change your thinking: November is the wild blueberry’s heyday.

With homemade food in the spotlight and new recipes to impress the family on the radar, wild blueberries steal the show at a Thanksgiving spread. Maybe it’s because they are one of few blue foods that appear in nature. Or maybe it’s because they make everything a little more fun. Bring wild blueberries to dinner and you’ll put a smile on your host’s face, and you’ll be a hit at the kids’ table as well. When all the gobbling is over and the tryptophan kicks in, you’ll be thankful you did. Here’s why:

Taste. There’s nothing comparable to the sweet-sour-spicy taste of wild blueberries. They work well with just about any Thanksgiving dish and provide the ideal yin to the generous yang that makes up the usual Thanksgiving suspects like turkey, tubers, and stuffing.

Tradition. The best Thanksgiving dish puts a subtle twist on tradition, and wild blueberries fit the bill. Indigenous to Maine and eastern Canada, their presence provides a nod to native American foods. In fact, there are only three native North American fruits – Concord grapes, wild blueberries and cranberries – so you’d be remiss to leave out this essential berry.

Ease of cooking. Wild blueberries are a busy cook’s dream. They are smaller and more compact than their cultivated counterparts, and that helps them hold their shape for whatever you put them through. And, thanks to IQF, freezing preserves their individuality (not to mention their nutrition). They are great for baking, boiling for sauces, they work cold and warm, and they garnish as well as they cook.

Health benefits. Total indulgence is so yesterday. Today, there’s a trend toward maintaining healthy eating so even during the holidays your nutrition doesn’t go to pot. That’s where wild blueberries excel.  High in antioxidants, low in calories, and high in fiber, they satisfy the palate and nourish the body while still tasting like an indulgence.

Color. Seeking out colorful foods for Thanksgiving is a must. Because of the abundance of earth tones as a result of turkey, potato, stuffing, onions and other foods that are on the beige part of the spectrum, a spark of color is crucial to bring a Thanksgiving plate to life. Enter wild blueberries, a rare opportunity to add high-octane color to a piled-high platter.

Cranberries optional. If some members of your clan don’t care for the traditional cranberry sauce, wild blueberries save the day. Their flavor is a unique brand of sweet due to a wonderful natural flavor variation that is a result of a combination of several different varieties of plant that create this indigenous crop. Or keep the cranberries – they pair extremely well with blues, enhancing the taste of both in pies, sauce, and stuffing.

Cost. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, Thanksgiving dinner will be 13% more expensive this year than it was last year. The price of turkey alone is up .25/lb. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd, keeping costs down is key. The best advice? Think big. Buying ingredients in bulk helps, and oversize bags of frozen blues are economical and never go bad if they are unused. Avoiding pre-packaging is another way to stretch the food budget, and wild blueberries are a perfect unprocessed ingredient – it’s a frugal gourmet’s dream.

Plan Your Holiday Menu! How Will You Use Your Blues?

Cranberries and blueberries make a stellar taste combination. Impress the fam with this Cranberry and Wild Blueberry Pie. Or mix it up with lip-smacking Blue Cranberry Sauce, or some Homemade Cranberry Blueberry Sauce.

Looking for a Cranberry Sauce alternative? This Szechwan Crispy Duck with Chinese Wild Blueberry sauce creates a fantastic flavor profile. Using turkey instead of duck works equally well to show off these two tastes. Or make this very scoopable Wild Blueberry Salsa. Even Betty Crocker recommends adding cherries and blueberries to their Cranberry Stuffing recipe to vary the taste.

Done with traditional pie? Think outside of the circle – Wild Blueberry Grunt is a fun alternative to pumpkin pie, or you can impress the relatives with your culinary know-how by making Wild Blueberry Crème Brûlé.

Finally, if you’re looking for a meal opener or a great bring-with hors d’oeuvre, you’re covered with
Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Onions and Wild Blueberries – delicious and perfectly portable.

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