Loving the blues
New varieties developed by UF allow the berries to thrive across the state
BY DANIELLE ROSE
Of all the fruit this state is famous for, blueberries are often overlooked. Florida’s blueberry season is short and sweet. They are the first to ripen in the country and the first to hit markets in early spring.
Each year Florida growers increase their share of the blueberry market, thanks to new varieties developed by the University of Florida that work well for our climate. Blueberries require chill hours or an amount of time a fruit tree is exposed to cooler temperatures. Since Florida has a very mild winter season, these new low-chill blueberry varieties allow blueberries to grow all over the state, on farms and in backyards.
Blueberries are popular with home gardeners not only because the berries they give are delicious, but also because they’re a stunning shrub with pretty foliage all year long. The lovely bell-shaped flowers are followed by a rainbow of green, pink, and deep blue berries that ripen at different times.
They thrive in well-drained, acidic soil, or areas where pine trees, azaleas, or camellias do well. If that’s not available in a garden, they can be grown in containers in an acidic soil mix. Some cultivars recommended for this area include Emerald, Optimus and Kestrel.
If growing blueberries isn’t an option, check out local U-pick farms or find them at markets throughout the spring. Imported blueberries are often cheaper, undercutting Florida growers. That’s because they only pay a tenth of what Florida farmers do to harvest them, without the food safety and environmental standards. Besides that, the quality of super fresh, local fruit just can’t be beat.
Blueberries ripen around the same time as Florida peaches, and I have a recipe that combines them in one incredibly tasty dessert. This blueberry peach galette is a rustic, free-form pie that’s simple to put together on a sheet pan. It emerges from the oven with golden, crisp edges surrounding bubbling fruit, ready to slice up and top with big scoops of vanilla ice cream. It’s the perfect way to celebrate our homegrown fruit this season.
Blueberry Peach Galette
1 ¼ cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup ice-cold water
1 pint blueberries
1 peach, pitted and thinly sliced
¼ cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
1 tablespoon turbinado or coarse sugar
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Work in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it’s broken into pea-sized pieces. Add the yogurt and water and stir just until it comes together in a ball [do not knead]. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Toss the fruit with sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and starch in a bowl.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the disc of dough between two 16-inch sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the pastry between the sheets of plastic wrap until it’s a roughly 14-inch circle.
Gently peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Flip the pastry upside-down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Peel off the other layer of plastic wrap. Pour the fruit and juices into the center of the pastry, leaving 2-3 inches around the edges. Lift the edges of pastry up toward the fruit, folding between each section. Whip the egg with one tablespoon of water and brush over the exposed pastry, then sprinkle with turbinado.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is deeply golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Top with ice cream or whipped cream, and garnish with mint leaves if you’re feeling fancy.