Jim Bennett

It starts in the spring when morel mushrooms and wild asparagus pop up for people who love the fresh flavor of tasty wild foods. About the same time spring fishing and turkey hunting come onboard. Add fresh fish and truly free-range turkey to make a meal fit for a king.

Many of the same people who love searching out great wild food will be planting gardens and caring for their apples and other fruit trees. Some have patches of asparagus, strawberries and raspberries. They pick wild blackberries and huckleberries and other wild mushrooms to stay grounded. They realize that the best foods don’t come from grocery stores wrapped in plastic, in cans, boxes or freezers. 

Previously morels have been my favorite fresh food, which I can only get by gathering, but they’ve moved into second place in favor of blueberries.  Why is that? It’s all about flavor and dining pleasures. Yes, morels are great as the main course, sautéed in butter, in an omelet, added to casseroles, over a steak, battered in egg and cracker crumbs or corn meal and in pasta. They make the flavor, texture and aroma incomparable. They are a good antioxidant, benefit your liver, and are a good source of vitamin D, iron, and phosphorus and help strengthen your immune system.

Store-bought blueberries are incomparable to tiny wild blueberries you pick in the woods. The health benefits of wild blueberries as an antioxidant rank them near the top of all “Health Super Foods.”  Research at the University of Maine has shown that wild blueberries also are an anti-inflammatory food that can prevent various diseases linked to metabolic syndrome, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease when the berries are a regular long term food choice.

Socrates was right when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Other health benefits include helping with hypertension, inflammation, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction as well as improving blood flow and blood pressure. Research at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has supported the positive effects blueberries have on the human immune system when combined with vitamin D.

What about blueberry food options? I first heard of blueberry soup when I skied the American Birkebeiner. Blueberry pancakes are a favorite and can be made in healthy way, as can blueberry muffins, dressings, Maine wild blueberry pudding, in salads, in smoothies and shakes and added to main dishes such as chicken, steak, pork, lamb or included in a meat sauce or pasta sauce because of their tannic properties. 

The summer blueberry-picking season runs from mid July to early August as you travel north. Last week I returned to a state owned parcel just south of Lake Superior; it had almost no bugs but was loaded with blueberries after we searched them out and found the Mother Lode. There we sat under a clear blue sky, 70 degree weather and picked at leisure while stuffing our faces yet brought home enough berries to last us a long time.

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com


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