Blueberries are a summer grab bag. Some are tart. Some are sweet. And some are simply both.
Right now could be the best time of year for blueberries. Picking season has started, although heavy rains could make for a smaller crop than in years past. Let's get those jams, pies and pancakes started.
The key to choosing berries in the grocery store is to find firm, dry berries. A dusty white covering, known as a "bloom," is a good thing. It means the berries were recently picked. I always pop one or two in my mouth. It's the only way to know for sure.
In addition to trying the berries, lightly shake the pint container. If the berries clump together, pick up another pint. Blueberries that stick together are either overripe or were crushed in the picking or transport. The same goes for frozen blueberries. If they're clumped together, they may have thawed and refrozen.
Blueberries will keep for about a week if you put them in a covered container in the fridge. Don't wash them until just before you eat them. The bloom is what protects the skin of the berries and washing it off will cause the berries to ripen faster. Wash and gently dry blueberries before freezing them on a plate or cookie sheet. After the berries have frozen, then transfer them to a plastic bag.
There are a number of options for picking your own. The Berry Patch in Cleveland, Missouri, is about 30 minutes south of Kansas City. You can call ahead (816-618-2771) to find out the best time for picking. Duncan's Berry Farm -- which sells at the Briarcliff Farmers Market -- has a relatively new u-pick operation in Smithville, Missouri. Call 816-873-3053 to get a picking report on blackberries and blueberries.
Never picked your own? Use your thumb and forefinger to remove a blueberry from a bush while cupping your hand underneath to catch the berry. This will keep you from bruising or crushing the delicate berry.
Or save your back by pushing a cart around McGonigle's Market, which has blueberries from Osceola, Missouri, for $3.50 a pound.