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Blueberries - Local season runs through August

July 22, 1997

Blueberries

Local season runs through August

By TERI JOHNSON

Staff Writer

Blueberries are a quick way to stay cool on a scorching summer day.

They're appealing because they need no peeling - or pitting, coring or cutting. Just wash them, and they're ready.

Blueberries can be eaten from the box or in an ice-cold bowl of milk, but they are equally at home in salads, sauces or soups.

The colorful fruit also can be used to top a dessert pizza, says Lisa Gehman of Mount Airy, Md., author of the cookbook "Blueberry Blessings."

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Gehman says Fruit Pizza is popular with her four children, who range in age from 10 years to 21 months.

"They all really like blueberries, even the baby," she says.

Gehman and her husband, Floyd Gehman, help sell fruit at the Mount Airy home of his parents, Eugene and Arlene Gehman. The Gehmans asked friends and customers to share their favorite recipes, and "Blueberry Blessings" was the result.

Eugene and Arlene Gehman have been selling blueberries for 23 years, and for three weeks in July, they offer them in 20-pound and pint boxes. Customers place orders in advance and pick up the berries on Thursdays. The Gehmans get the berries from a company in New Jersey.

Lois and Norman Horst, owners of Martin's Farm Market in Hagerstown, also sell New Jersey blueberries in 20-pound boxes, and they ordered 560 of them this season.

"This year is tops as far as selling blueberries. We sold more than we ever have," Lois Horst says.

Because the berries mold quickly, it's important to can or freeze them right away, she says.

She says cobbler and milk shakes are two of their favorite blueberry desserts.

Sandy Scott, horticulture consultant for University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Service, became interested in the fruit when she and her husband, Jon Scott, visited the college he attended, Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich.

"We went out to a pick-your-own place, and we really got hooked on blueberries," she says.

The Scotts live near Middletown, Md., and have been growing blueberries for 15 years.

"I like fresh fruit, and when I go out and pick berries, I don't eat dinner afterward," she says.

The fruit also is a national favorite - U.S. Department of Agriculture proclaimed July as National Blueberry Month.

The local season runs through August, and there are early, mid-season and late-season varieties, Sandy Scott says.

Blueberry bushes need acidic soil and plenty of water, as they dry out quickly, she says. They are a good choice for the home gardener because they are practically insect- and disease-free, and you don't have to bend over to pick them, she says.

The mouth-watering morsels also are a healthful snack.

A one cup serving of fresh blueberries has 80 calories, is low in fat and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber, according to North American Blueberry Council.

Research under way at USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., has shown that blueberries top the list of about 40 fruits, juices and vegetables in their antioxidant activity.

Antioxidants suppress the body's accumulation of free radicals - substances that can destroy cell tissue and often are a precursor to cancer growth, says Ruth Lowenberg, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for North American Blueberry Council.

Blueberries contain a group of substances called flavonoids that act as antioxidants, Lowenberg says.

"We're seeing that blueberries have a lot more value than we thought," she says.

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