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Farm to Table: fruit for all seasons

Hello Everyone!  It’s been a very exciting time here in Chile, and I can’t wait to tell you about some of the things I have been learning!

The next few installations of Health: Here, There, and Everywhere, are going to follow the journey of two of my favorite foods from la granja (the farm) to la mesa (the table). 

First, some background…

As you may have noticed in my introduction, it is summer here in South America.  This reverse seasonality plays a significant role in Chile’s economy.  Most of us are familiar with Chile’s copper mines (the country’s amazing rescue of miners made headlines all over the world), and more recently of some delicious wines (the topic of a future blog, don’t worry!), but Chile is also responsible for many of the fruits and vegetables you find in your local grocery store.

Many U.S. companies partner with farmers here to grow fruits and vegetables that Americans love during North America’s “off-season.”  This is one of the reasons we enjoy “seasonal” fruit and vegetables all year long.  I have had the good fortune to travel up and down the country visiting farms and tasting fruit that is currently being packed and shipped to the U.S. for you to enjoy.

For example, did you know the blueberries you added to your cereal this morning most likely came from Chile? December through February it is too cold to grow blueberries in North America, but the climate is perfect in Chile.  That’s why I was in Pucon, to visit farms and learn about blueberry production and exportation. Did you know there are many different varieties of blueberries?  Just like we have red delicious, granny smith, and gala apples, there are many varieties of blueberries (the Spanish word for blueberry is arrandano).  I imagine one day soon you will choose varieties of blueberries the same way you choose apples.  Some variety names are: duke, legacy, liberty, and rabbit eye.  Currently, only those who import, export, and distribute blueberries use the variety names.  To tell you the truth, the differences between varieties are quite subtle and have more to do with when the fruit ripens than how the fruit tastes.Did you know that great tasting blueberries, which are high in antioxidants, need sunblock just like us?  It’s true.  The berries produce a thin white powdery film that is called “bloom” that protects them from the sun.  So if it looks like your berry has been dipped in baby powder, don’t panic…it’s not mold, it’s the berries natural defense against the sun’s bright rays!  Blueberries are a non-climacteric fruit.  This means that unlike bananas, which will continue to ripen after they are picked, blueberries are best picked when they are ripe.  This is because blueberries don’t store much of their natural sugars as starch. Once picked they don’t get sweeter.  So, each morning, when the air is cool, workers go through the fields and pick the ripe berries off the bush.  The berries are brought to packing facilities, essentially giant refrigerators, placed on a conveyer belt, sorted by hand, and packed into clamshells (the little plastic boxes we buy them in at the grocery store).  The combination of automated and manual processes ensure the integrity of the berries are preserved.  Throughout this process are quality control measures, my favorite of which are the “taste tests.”  From the packing facilities, the berries are shipped to the USA, inspected again for quality, distributed to stores all over the country, where they are bought and ultimately end up on your table!There you have it, the simplified journey of how millions of berries go from the farm to the table!  Enjoy blueberries alone or try the following blueberry recipes from McCormick’s 2012 Flavor Forecast: http://www.mccormickforchefs.com/Links/Cooking-Resources/flavor-forecast-2012/no-boundaries.aspx

Personally, I am going to make the Spiced Duck Arepas with Blueberry Port Sauce.

In the next “issue” of farm to table I will share with you a journey in progress…I am a volunteer for an artichoke pilot program in La Serena, Chile.

Ciao for now!  Besos, Lacey

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