June 4, 2012

Food in the Front Yard Project: Blueberries (Plus a recipe for blueberry paletas!)

We're moving into a time of year when blueberries seem to be everywhere: floating on top of your breakfast cereal, scattered in your salad, whirling in your smoothie.

Not until a couple of years ago, though, did I even consider them a California crop - San Joaquin County alone produced 6,400 tons of them (worth close to $24 million) in 2010. Although blueberries traditionally needed a hearty winter chill to thrive, new varieties have been developed to suit warmer regions, including ours.

Blueberries were our gateway to front yard fruit and vegetable gardening. They're definitely pretty enough, with delicate white blossoms. In the fall, their leaves turn gold and bronze, and if you want, shrubs can be trimmed just like hedges.

The local cooperative extension has good resources on growing blueberries at home. My best advice is to fertilize. Blueberries, like azaleas and rhododendrons, prefer acidic soil. Last year we didn't treat the soil. This year we did - and the difference is remarkable.

(If you're not quite ready to grow your own, may I suggest a visit to Giusto Blueberry Farms in Acampo?)

It's so much fun to eat blueberries straight off the bush, and that's mostly what we do. But since the weather has taken a turn for the warmer, I decided to try some blueberry paletas.

Paletas are Mexican ice pops, usually made of fruit. For a real one, go to a big public park some afternoon and listen for the tling-tlinging of a pushcart bell. In the meantime, I thought these came out well.

You'll need:
2 cups blueberries
1 cups yogurt (I used peach-flavored. If you're going with plain, you might consider also stirring in some sugar or another sweetener).
ice pop molds

Step 1. Rinse and drain your blueberries, then puree them. If you want a smoother bar, you could push the puree through a strainer, but I preferred some texture - I even tried to leave some blueberries whole.

Step 2: Stir in yogurt

Step 3: Pour mixture into molds and freeze for 3 or 4 hours, or overnight. (If you have any leftover puree, you can make a single-serving smoothie while you're waiting for the pops to freeze).

That's it!

To read more about how we planned and planted our front yard garden, start with Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

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