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Food in the news: Blueberries should be great

Blueberry growers across North Carolina are expecting a record crop as they start harvesting for the season, thanks to recent dry weather.

“Too much rain at harvest can damage blueberries and ruin a crop,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Fortunately, the weather is cooperating and we are seeing some of the highest yields and best-tasting berries we’ve had in years.”

North Carolina is the seventh-largest producer of blueberries in the nation. In 2012, the state grew 41 million pounds of blueberries. About 75 percent of the state’s crop is sold to fresh markets such as grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands.

Bill Cline, a plant pathologist at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Castle Hayne, works with blueberry growers throughout the year. He said consumers should have no trouble finding N.C. blueberries during the next few weeks. Shoppers are encouraged to check labels to see if blueberries were grown in North Carolina, but Cline said that even national brands should be using N.C. blueberries right now because of availability.

One of the best ways for consumers to know they are getting locally grown blueberries is to buy berries directly from growers at farmers markets, roadside stands or pick-your-own farms. Many of these growers expect to have crops that last until Labor Day. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers an online directory of farmers markets, roadside stands and pick-your-own farms at www.ncfarmfresh.com.

More information about North Carolina blueberries is available on the N.C. Blueberry Council’s website,www.northcarolinablueberries.com.

Here’s a blueberry recipe that uses the other big ingredient of the day:

From Fay Hope Cusick: “When I was child on the farm zucchini and blueberries were very abundant and a combination of the two made into a bread for breakfast was a special farm delight which everyone enjoys. I have treasured delicious memories of this bread with family and friends an now with NC Blueberry Contest. Enjoy!”
Ingredients
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray 2 loaf pans, 4 x 8 inches, with nonstick cooking spray. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to put on the bottom of each pan then spray pan. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs, vanilla, oil and zucchini, then add 2 cups sugar and mix.
  5. Add the flour mixture alternately with the creamed mixture and beat well after each addition.
  6. In a bowl toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour to coat so they won’t sink to the bottom.
  7. Gently fold blueberries into batter.
  8. Pour batter equally into prepared pans.
  9. Combine ¼ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over batter.
  10. Place 12 pecan halves down the 2 outside halves of the batter to form lines around the break line.
  11. Bake 45-55 minutes or until done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  12. Cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes then turn out and cool completely.

Produce Box going statewide

The Produce Box, a company that delivers local farm produce and artisan foods to member doorsteps each week, is introducing a direct delivery service to allow residents statewide to join The Produce Box http://www.theproducebox.com.

Through the direct delivery service, residents across the state including Hickory, Jacksonville, Fayetteville, Salisbury, Greenville, Gastonia, Goldsboro, Wilson, Lumberton, Lake Norman can have local, fresh foods and produce delivered via overnight shipping to their homes and businesses.

This is not associated with Salisbury’s Bread Riot or the Salisbury-Rowan Farmers Market.

 Members have no contracts or long-term commitments and can choose from a wide variety of produce options and North Carolina specialty foods each week. Box prices range from $25 to $35 and include the direct delivery fee.

 The Produce Box works with more than 50 North Carolina farmers and 90 local artisans to purchase more than 2 million pounds of local produce each year. Of the produce purchased, the company donates 700 pounds each week to community organizations across the state.

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