Saturday, August 23, 2008

They're here! part two

Note: this post originally started on August 2, but somewhere between vacation and the Olympics it got lost. I thought I better finish it before the apples come in (which they are starting to do already)...

Jennifer They're here!

What are here?

Svensk blåbär, that's what! Oh, you thought cherries were my favorite? Well, anyone who knows me well knows that blueberries are actually my favorite. Not blueberry-flavored things, mind you, but blueberries, the raw fruit, the real deal. What did I used to get from that Dutch place in South Haven, a 10lb box? And I could eat half of that in one sitting. Just look at that big pot of blueberries (500 grams for 40 SEK) Joe brought back for me. I'm going to dive in there and eat and eat and eat until...

Hang on...

What the heck are these things?

Turns out that when you buy a box of what are called "blåbär" around here, you get fruits that are smaller, darker, tarter, and they come with unusually silvan contaminants, such as leaves and pine needles. Most berries still have a stem attached as well, almost as if they had been picked with some sort of mechanical device (like a comb) instead of by hand. Hmmm...

My first research stop was of course the MSU Extension pages, but no help there. A little more research (okay, Wikipedia) has convinced me that what these folk call "blåbär" are actually what we or Brits would call "bilberries," not "blueberries." The two plants are of course very closely related, and both the taxonomy and the vernacular nomenclature is conflicting and confusing; some people call bilberries "huckleberries" (but I'm not sure that's right) or "wild blueberries" (which also is probably not correct). Anyway, I'm not a botanist, but one thing I can do is spot a taxonomy in trouble, and so I will not try to assign species names, but trust me, they're different. (Did that sound a little too authoritarian? Evidence is presented below.)

You can get real blueberries here, but they come from Belgium or something, cost a lot more (200 grams for 50 SEK) and they're not as sweet and juicy as the ones from Michigan. Bilberries are not as good to eat raw, by the handful, as blueberries are, but their small size and tartness makes them excellent for baking. They shine in a sweet muffin matrix. I expect the ones I froze to work equally well as a syrup or in pancakes.

Bluberries: fruit large, blush on the skin, flesh green or white. (Belgian fruits pictured here, with a nickel for scale. Note slices through longitude and latitude.)

Bilberries: fruit small, no blush, flesh purple. (And your fingers will be blue for days after you sort and stem them.)

1 comment:

  1. ok, I plan to say "sweet muffin matrix" several times in the near future. Fun to read --and I love the pics with the nickel provided for size :)