A perfect recipe to welcome Blueberry season

By Angela McRae

Is there any fruit that’s more delicious than a fat, ripe blueberry plucked right off the bush? How I love that perfect little burst of blueberry goodness when I pop a fresh blueberry into my mouth.

For many years, I didn’t even realize we could grow blueberries here in Georgia. Like others, I believed that blueberries were strictly a northern crop. Then I began to discover blueberries growing in friends’ gardens here in Coweta County. A few years ago, when my parents moved into a new home in Tallapoosa, we were all delighted to discover that huge blueberry bushes were already growing on the property, so now I have the pleasure of enjoying fresh blueberries each year.

And in a curious twist for the Peach State, Georgia’s number one fruit crop is no longer peaches but blueberries! The value of blueberry production first beat the peach crop back in 2005, and that gap has been widening ever since, according to officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Georgia Blueberry Commission says that Georgia’s soil is sandy and acidic, the perfect environment for growing blueberries. Georgia is said to have the largest amount of good blueberry soil in the Deep South, and this soil is highly concentrated in South Georgia. Our climate, too, is ideal for growing blueberries since our short winters provide the chill that blueberries need, followed by those warm spring and summer temperatures.

I’ve sprinkled blueberries on salads, sipped blueberry-flavored tea, and baked everything from blueberry pound cake to blueberry quick breads, blueberry muffins, and one of my favorite uses for blueberries, these Blueberry Crumb Bars. I adapted a recipe I found online because I didn’t like its emphasis on lemon flavorings, which I don’t want to compete with the taste of the blueberries. The result? Imagine the love child of a bar cookie and a cobbler, and you’ll have a good idea of what these easy Blueberry Crumb Bars taste like.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided use
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In large bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, baking powder, flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and egg. Make sure dough has pea-sized crumbs because you don’t want it to be too smooth. Pour half of dough into pan and pat down.

In another large bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, water and cornstarch. Add blueberries and stir just until the sugar mixture has covered the berries. Spread blueberry mixture over crust, then top with remaining dough and smooth. Bake 45 minutes or until top begins to brown. Cool on wire rack and then cut into squares. Drooling is completely optional.