How to grow and prepare blueberries

A gardener and a chef team up with advice on growing and cooking blueberries, including a recipe for a cool and elegant summer dessert.

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    When you're looking for ways to use summer's bounty of ripe blueberries, recipes such as Blueberry-Lime Napoleon are cool and spectacular solutions.
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Blueberries are extremists, says Anne, the gardener. They need intensely acid soil, a pH of 4.0 to 5.0. Add sunshine and a steady supply of water to the roots and you will produce a bumper crop of those tasty berries.

Acid soil necessary

To acidify soil that is too “sweet” (alkaline), use agricultural sulphur according to label directions. After you plant the blueberry bushes, use acid-producing organic mulches such as pine, oak, or hemlock leaves/needles at least two inches thick. You can also use a fertilizer formulated for acid plants.

You can prune blueberry bushes into ornamental shapes so they will even fit into a street-side garden. They have little bell-shaped blossoms in the spring, which turn into plump berries, first a kind of pink and then the rich blue.

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You will know when the berries are ripe because they will easily spill into your hand when you gently tug on the clusters.

Northern and Southern blueberries

Gardeners in the North can grow the Northern highbush varieties that withstand the cold and snowy winters. If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll want to seek out the Southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberries, which tolerate heat and humidity.

Some of the newer varieties don’t require a pollinator to produce fruit, but you will have a larger crop if you plant two different cultivars. For cross-pollination, be sure to purchase two that bloom at the same time.

Be sure to use some of your ripe berries for this scrumptious dessert Linda has designed.

A spectacular, cool, and delicious dessert

Like most cooks, says Linda the chef, I lie awake at night trying to think of new recipes. What recipe could I create that would befit a Sunday afternoon dessert in the garden, be easy to make, and taste like heaven on a plate?

Blueberry and lime napoleons with glazed blueberry-lime topping was the answer that came one night.

The next day when I was recipe testing, I put one napoleon together and then I tried to take photos of it. Unfortunately, I took a bite before I had finished shooting. I ate it all! There was nothing left to send but a photo of an empty dessert plate.

Ashamed I was. On the other hand, I was thinking about how glad I was that I had made only one. Otherwise, I would have eaten the other one, too!

Blueberry-Lime Napoleons With Glazed Blueberry & Lime Topping

Phyllo Cookies

1 package phyllo dough

Sugar

Sliced almonds

Butter

Follow package directions for defrosting, preparation, and storage of dough. (I used 10 sheets of 9-by-14-inch dough.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking sheet, place a sheet of parchment paper.

Melt one-half stick of butter.

Place a sheet of phyllo on the parchment paper and using a pastry brush, lightly butter the dough.

Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Keep layering with butter and sugar until you have 5 sheets of prepared phyllo dough.

Butter and sugar the top layer of dough, and add as many sliced almonds as you like. Slice the dough across the middle lengthwise, and then divide down into four sections.

Place the phyllo dough in the hot oven to bake for about 10 minutes. Watch it and make sure it does not get too dark or burn. Remove to a plate to cool while you make another stack of cookies.

Cream Filling

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup whipped cream cheese

Dash salt

1 tablespoon lime zest

1-3/4 tablespoons lime juice

3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment, whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar until thickened. Add the whipped cream cheese, salt, zest, and lime juice, and beat until thick. Fold in the fresh blueberries. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Glazed Blueberries With Lime

2 cups blueberries

Juice of 1 lime

4-1/2 tablespoons to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of blueberries)

Place the blueberries, lime juice, and 4-1/2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan. Cook until sugar is melted and blueberries take on a shiny glaze. Taste for sweetness. Add more sugar if needed.

Assembly

Prepare 4 dessert plates by placing one phyllo cookie on each plate. Divide cream filling into two equal containers. Spoon equal amounts of cream on each layer of the four phyllo cookies. Add another cookie to the top of the filling, and spoon the remaining container of filling equally onto each of 4 cookies. Add the last phyllo cookie to the top of each napoleon. You will have two layers of filling and three phyllo cookies on each plate. Divide the glazed blueberries between the 4 phyllo cookie tops to finish the Napoleons. Serve immediately. Serves 4. (You will have phyllo cookies left over; save for another use.)

Editor's Note: To read more of Anne and Linda's "how to grow and prepare" series, click here.

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Linda Weiss and Anne Moore met while Linda was the food editor and Anne was the garden editor for South Carolina Homes & Gardens magazine. They now write articles for the ETV GardenSMART television show website, where Anne is the horticulture editor, gardening consultant, and e-newsletter editor. Anne has written for magazines and newspapers. She is a member of and a recipient of a Silver Award for magazine writing from the Garden Writers Association. Linda is a personal chef. She attended Le Cordon Bleu of Paris’ catering program, has appeared as a guest chef on numerous television shows, has been a culinary educator for 10 years, and a food writer for a number of magazines. She is a professional member of The James Beard Foundation and the Southern Foodways Alliance. She has written a cookbook, "Memories From Home, Cooking with Family and Friends."

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