Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Enter the Strawberry

A Season of Picking, Festivals & Shortcake Begins
strawberries by Greencolander, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Greencolander 

When strawberries are in season, no one will blame you for dropping everything to get to the nearest fruit stand – whether it’s an expanse that covers acres, or just a girl with a glass jar and a folding table. Cartons bursting with shiny crimson-colored fruit are all you need to start feeling like summer is truly here.

Strawberries are beloved for their sweet delicious flavor, and when they are picked fresh from the field, there is nothing like them. They are, like wild blueberries, a strong contender for a powerful antioxidant food. They are also associated with exciting new brain health studies that show that they, along with blueberries, hold big promise under their colorful skin in the prevention of age-related brain deterioration, including Alzheimer’s.

Low in calories, strawberries are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese. Their anti-inflammatory properties that help preserve brain health also fight certain cancers, provide cardiovascular support, help regulate blood sugar and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes. even tells us that strawberry juice can serve as a salve for feverish patients and cool a sunburn!

Most of all, strawberries are a fun, versatile ingredient that thrill the palate in everything from pies to salsas. So open the door to summer and surrender to this ruby red fruit. It’s time to indulge in all things strawberry.

Fields & Festivals Devoted to Strawberries

Locals will tell you, Maxwell’s Strawberry Farm is a goldmine for growing and picking strawberries in Southern Maine. Located in the Two Lights area of Cape Elizabeth, they invite pickers to pick to their heart’s content for $2.39/pound. Be sure to call the Strawberry Hotline (207-799-3383) beforehand to make sure the fields are not closed for ripening.

To make the most of the season, Maxwell's is host to the 2012 Strawberry Festival which takes place Saturday, June 30th. It’s real kicks-off is Friday evening, though, with a Lobsterbake & Pig Roast Fund Raiser. The next day at the festival, visitors will encounter strawberry treats, music, a wide range of artisans and vendors, and plenty of activities for kids, including tractor rides, and hot air balloon rides. 

Or, head south on Saturday to South Berwick (it’s right on the New Hampshire border) to the annual South Berwick Strawberry Festival where the usual shenanigans of this self-described small town country event ensues, including entertainment, food, artisans, and plenty of strawberry shortcakes.

Strawberry Recipes to Kick Off the Season

It’s no crime to eat your berries straight from the carton, but using them in extraordinary recipes may be what they were created for. Just in the nick of time, The Portland Press Herald offers recipes for the season from local Maine culinary experts, including Strawberry Crepe Cake from Erin Lynch, kitchen manager of Rosemont Market & Bakery, and Strawberry and Finger Banana Fritters, a wow of a dish, compliments of Chef Carmen Gonzalez of the Danforth Inn.

Southern Living has has in-season recipes like Strawberry-Fruit Toss with Cornmeal Shortcakes, and Strawberry-Turkey-Brie Panini to put strawberries to work in something other than dessert. Also in keeping with the season, Cooking Light is a mouth-watering resource for all things strawberry, among them Strawberry Granita and Lavender-Scented Strawberries with Honey Cream. (They have layer cake, too.)

Finally,, where home cooks spread their wings, has a Strawberry Salad that is a stunner for summer. It’s a combination of strawberries, balsamic vinegar and greens; making it exclusively from farmer’s market loot is a must. The salad is a runner-up to the grand prize winner, the utmost in summer desserts, Strawberries with Lavender Biscuits. Tender biscuits with delightful undertones of lavender separate this lovely interpretation of the traditional shortcake from the pack.

Berry Synergistic

One of the best things about strawberries is their palate-pleasing pairing with wild blueberries. Together, these berries offer a complex flavor with surprising sweetness and tang, and an antioxidant burst that pumps up health benefits to the max.
“When you combine different antioxidant foods, you get synergy,” says Dr. Dan Nadeau, Medical Director for Diabetes and Endocrinology Associates of York Hospital and co-author of The Color Code. Synergy refers to combining healthy foods in a way that results in an even bigger benefit to health than the two would have apart. For example, combining wild blueberries and walnuts or strawberries can increase the impact they have when eaten separately, creating a burst of protection when it comes to our bodies.

Synergistic dishes for strawberry season that are high in nutrition and bursting with color include Confessions of and Overworked Mom’s Strawberry Blueberry Crumble Pie. Martha Stewart has her say with a Red and White Blueberry Trifle, a synergistic recipe that is perfect for the 4th of July.

Find a “pick your own” farm in Maine, or close by in New Brunswick.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Foods Adopt a Blue Hue

Wild Blueberries Create New Traditions in Seasonal Fare

Right now, wild blueberry barrens throughout Maine and Nova Scotia are being fertilized and closely checked for growth and pests as farmers anticipate the coming harvest season. Around here, it seems like everyone has wild blueberries on their mind. Of course, there’s no reason to wait for August when today’s quick freezing technology makes blues straight from the field available anytime, but the thought of thousands of acres of this Maine fruit simultaneously bursting with deep blue color just seems to trigger our taste for the sweet, tangy wild blueberry.

There’s no forcing wild blueberry pie off the most-loved foods list, but there are some other less traditional ways to encounter the area’s indigenous ingredient that have burgeoned in popularity. Recently, the Portland Press Herald discussed the penchant for some to indulge in non-traditional lobster rolls (consider the convention-busting wasabi roll, or the BLT-style roll), and we’re doing the same with wild blueberries. We consider these outside-the-box specialties the new summer essentials. Incorporating them into your summer fare will steer you clear from the hum-drum and satisfy your hankering for the uniquely sweet taste you long for. There are plenty of options perfect for a season ripe for something small, cool and blue!

Blueberries & Seafood: A Sizzling Summer Pairing 

Pairing wild blueberries with seafood has been a culinary secret held by the best chefs in the nation. Now it’s yours: blueberries create an ideal flavor profile for all types of proteins, but especially seafood, which comes to life when complemented by a bright, tangy sauce. Wild blueberries fit the bill perfectly due to their particularly complex flavor that’s like no other fruit or berry, and the result can be exquisite.

For example, wild blueberries paired with hearty fish, like this Grilled Halibut with Blueberry-Pepper Sauce from Heart Healthy Living is the perfect foray into seasonal eating. Think lobster and blueberries make an unlikely pair? Catherine Ryan Quint’s Baked Stuffed Lobster (reprinted here by Maine Travel Maven Hilary Nagle) says differently. Her recipe has a history of taking home the gold at the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival – can hundreds of Down Easters be wrong? The crabmeat and blueberry stuffing is the surprise. Another summer favorite from gets a new lease on life with Lobster and Crab Cakes with Wild Blueberries. Wild takes these cakes from same-old to seconds-please.

Blueberry Brews – A Summer Basic with a Twist

Hanging out around festivals tents, backyard barbeques, or under umbrellas on the deck of a local brewery this summer? Then you know that beer is a summer standard. Clearly, local breweries know the flavor for the season: it’s blueberry, and using Maine wild blueberries is imperative for a perfect brew. Atlantic Brewing has the idea with their Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale (their all-ages Blueberry soda is made with Maine blueberries, too). Sebago Brewing, not to be outdone, offers Bass Ackwards Berryblue Ale, brewed exclusively during the Maine blueberry harvest. (They suggest a Black and Blue – Bass Ackwards mixed with Lake Trout Stout – for a killer quaff.) Sea Dog Brewing Company makes their mark as well with Bluepaw Blueberry Wheat Alea sud beloved for its fruity, nutty flavor. Try all three and more with Bacon Wrapped Blueberry Jalapeño Poppers, a bar-side favorite with a twist that hails – who knew? – from the South.

Popsicles: Cool Blue Beats the Heat 

The best summer treats are cool and blue, and what’s more, they come on a stick! Homemade popsicles with real fruit is ingenious – they cool you down during the heat wave and take advantage of what wild blueberries have to offer in addition to powerful health-preserving antioxidants: big fruit taste. If you don’t have these fruit-forward missiles in your freezer from June to August, then pack up your big-brimmed hat, summer just isn’t for you.

Start with Martha Stewart’s Banana Swirl Popsicles, or these classically cool Blueberry Pops (use frozen just as easily without sacrificing nutrition, taste or convenience). Or, put some Blueberry Pomegranate Pops in your freezer. They are colorful, cute, and cold, and they require just three ingredients and one minute (give or take) to make.

Salsa: The Ultimate Summer Side, Improved (with Blue)

Why is salsa so summer friendly? It’s a chilly side that incorporates some heat (if you like), and it transcends super snack status by also being a super entrée side. Why wild blues? They represent the epitome of fruit flavor – more so than their cultivated cousins, according to Chef Steve Corry of Portland’s 555 – which turns this classic into something exciting. Dip tortillas in it, pair it with chicken, pork or fish dishes, or heap in on a turkey sandwich for the ultimate solution to the bland dish that incorporates the crucial but sometimes overlooked part of the dietary color spectrum. Here’s an elegant recipe for Blueberry Salsa from Whole Living – the Kitchen Is My Playground takes you through the all the visual steps. It uses the typical ingredients, including cilantro, jalapeno and lime juice, and takes it all to the extreme with the smashing taste of blueberries. Or, dip into Mango Blueberry Salsa. Its big taste is courtesy of an expert Maine chef, Executive Chef Louis Kiefer Jr. of the Bar Harbor Inn. You can also use your own garden bounty (or someone else’s) to make this Blueberry and Basil Habanero Salsa from Closet Cooking, a savory salsa that provides fresh taste with some heat. 

Got a summer recipe that uses wild blueberries? Whether it’s a classic dish or an extreme creation, tell us.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Be a Culinary Star!

Delicious Wild Blueberry Dishes Will Turn You Into a Top Chef

Why do chefs love cooking with wild blueberries? Steve Corry, Owner and Chef at Portland’s 555 and Petite Jacqueline Restaurants (and a Food & Wine pick for its 10 Best Chefs) breaks it down: deeper color and more intense flavor than their cultivated cousins. Wild is a requirement for recipes at Corry’s restaurants where there are no compromises, and for many award-winning chefs wild means better performance in the kitchen and better reviews in the dining room.

Spicy Tortilla Salad with Wild Blueberries
Feel like channeling a top chef? With summer upon us, wild blueberries provide vibrant color and uniquely sweet taste that creates seasonal dishes worth raving about. Plus, if you live in Maine or Canada, serving dishes with a nod to the region is simply de rigueur. Here are three recipe ideas that exemplify these virtues to kick off your own personal culinary extravaganza.

Super Summer Salad 

Spicy Tortilla Salad with Wild Blueberries elevates salad with an inspired mixture of fruit and warmth that is dazzling to look at and utter fun to eat. Apples and peppers combine with wild blueberries, flour tortillas, and goat cheese to complete the flavor profile. (Check out other delicious salads for summer.)

An Ideal Duck Pairing

Duck Breast with Wild Blueberry Sauce
If you are looking for a special entrée that shows off the unique sweet-sour taste of wild blueberries, try duck. Duck with wild blueberries is a signature combination at Corry’s restaurants – its popularity is due to a flavor that works tangy blues against savory duck. Wild blues are also ideal to add acidity and cut the fat content of the dish. This Duck Breast with Wild Blueberry Sauce is the perfect example. You can buy conveniently packaged duck breasts at most the grocery stores (and stop by the freezer section to stock up on wild blues).

Wild Blueberry Baselito
Summer Cocktail 

It may not be first on your list of ways to use wild blueberries, but in fact, this underrated drink ingredient shines in summer cocktails. This Wild Blueberry Baselito is one example of how blues play a part in celebrating the season. Wild blueberries, basil and rum (though this drink is fantastic with or without) make an ultracool cocktail for sipping on the porch.

Top Maine Chefs Love Wild Blueberries. See why area chefs use exclusively wild, and how they are inspired to use them in award-winning baked goods and dishes. Watch What Makes Chefs Go Wild by visiting The Better Blueberry and clicking “Watch” in the lower right hand side.  

Find more wild blue recipe ideas at

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Five Very Unexpected Benefits of Eating Fruits & Vegetables

Apple Ipod  by Nina Matthews Photography, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Nina Matthews Photography 

Eating fruits and vegetables – widely across the color spectrum – can yield tremendous benefits when it comes to our health and disease prevention efforts. But there are some advantages to eating deeply colored, antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies that may not be on our radar. You can consider these five unexpected benefits just a healthy bonus for eating well. They might even provide a little extra motivation to get your servings.

1. Benefits for Runners

Runner’s World recently reported on a couple of outlandish food benefits especially for runners. One is eating blueberries. (The other is, surprisingly, beer.) A study from Appalachian State University showed that runners who ate a cup of blueberries every day had less inflammation and oxidative damage before and after their run. It’s no surprise – these antioxidant leaders are known to have a major impact on cellular inflammation. The powerful anthocyanins in the berries actually protected them from the after-effects of challenging workouts and helped recovery. If you are in training, eating a cup of anthocyanin-rich berries will help boost your performance and get you in shape for that marathon – or your next workout.

2. Help Quitting Smoking

New studies show there are major benefits associated with eating many types of fruits and veggies if you are trying to quit smoking. The reason is not just limited to replacing a bad habit with a healthy one. First, fruits and vegetables don’t trigger a desire for nicotine, and unlike some foods like meat and alcohol, they don’t enhance its flavor – they actually make it taste worse. Another reason that fruits and veggies can serve as a secret weapon for those trying to quit might be the satiety fruits and vegetables provide. It can help lessen the desire to smoke, and high fiber choices can contribute to that effect. (Fruits and veggies that are high antioxidants also provide protection against lung cancer and respiratory ailments, which can benefit smokers and former smokers.)

3. Prevent Depression 

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of depression. Substantially so, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fruits and veggies that are deep in color and fiber-rich provide the most intense benefit. Also, B vitamins are a major weapon against depression because they help balance mood and even treat depression in those experiencing it (Vitamin B6 is found in many foods including bananas and spinach). Vitamin C (oranges, berries, leafy greens) has also been shown to enhance mood and stave off depression. Further studies have linked depression and wild blueberries. In 2010, a study conducted by a team led by Dr. Robert Krikorian, Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati, confirmed that a diet supplemented with wild blueberries improved memory function and mood in older adults and could decrease depression in the elderly.

4. Change Your Friends...and the World

Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables can be contagious. We mimic the habits of those we hang around with, which is why recent studies have indicated that obesity is contagious and our social circles affect our weight. Studies indicate that if you start eating better your friends will start eating better, not to mention the affect it will have on your family. If your diet is being sabotaged by your friends' or co-workers' bad habits, see what being a positive influence can do to those around you. If you are an influencer, your passion for fruits and veggies could actually start a badly-needed revolution of better health around the nation.

5. More Mojo

It may not be the first reason you change your eating habits, but it could be a reason to continue. Improving your love life can actually be a side effect of eating more fruits and vegetables. According to Slim Calm Sexy Diet author Keri Glassman, indulging in certain fruits like peaches, for example, can increase male hormone production and regulate thyroid function that helps increase libido for both men and women. Fruits and vegetables have the benefit of not just being good for us but boosting our energy and controlling our weight, which translates into feeling more amorous. And, foods high in nutrients, folic acid, potassium, and antioxidants translate into increased energy – and you can channel that in whatever way you’d like.

Learn what specific nutrients contribute to good health at Fruit and Veggies More MattersYou'll also find out which fruits and vegetables provide the best sources of the nutrients you need. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Brainberries: Heralding a Major Health Message

Heard about the berry-brain connection?

Strong scientific evidence continues to reinforce the connection between berries and health. It’s led some to call these high-nutrition berries “brainberries”, the latest moniker for potent berries like blueberries and strawberries that, when integrated into a daily diet, may help preserve and protect the brain as we age. The latest brain-berry research is taking us further in our understanding of a devastating problem affecting an aging population.

Listen the Bar Harbor Group member
Barabra Shukitt-Hale at the
American Chemical Society.
Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Ph.D., of the USDA, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, recently shared her contribution to this research on a podcast at the American Chemical Society. Shukitt-Hale’s research focuses on the science behind the value of eating berry fruits, and her findings, which appear in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggest that eating berries has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Shukitt-Hale is a valued member of the Bar Harbor Group, a group of top scientists from the U.S. and Canada that meet in Bar Harbor, Maine each year to present research into the connection between a blueberry-rich diet and disease prevention. Members have been a force behind research into Azhiemer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, vision health and metabolic syndrome. This past fall, Shukitt-Hale presented work at the Bar Harbor Summit concerning memory and motor function and their connection with blueberries.

On the podcast, Shukitt-Hale explains that the high antioxidant benefit is what acts on the part of the brain responsible for cognitive function. Berries contain high levels of antioxidants (with their dark phyto-rich skin, wild blueberries are leaders in antioxidants). She also points out that “…berry fruits change the way neurons in the brain communicate.”  These changes in signaling, she says, can prevent inflammation in the brain, the key to preventing neuron damage that specifically affects cognitive function. While ongoing research is required to fully understand this mechanism, we are closer than ever to a major health message that could help millions.

Brain Benefits Now & Later

Reducing Alzheimer’s disease can translate into reduced health care challenges for families, lowered costs of care, and improved quality of life for millions. Today, 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease and it is the sixth leading cause of death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias to American society will total an estimated $200 billion in 2012.

Should we change our behavior based on the research of Shukkit-Hale and the recent findings from the Nurses Health Study?

We should. If you are not eating berries in your daily diet, begin. Even if we have more to understand about the mechanism behind the berry benefits, increasing our fruit and veggie intake with a focus on berries is, according to the best experts in the field, the right move. Everyone can reap benefit from berries, and bumping up your intake is easy – there’s simply no downside, and the upside can be huge.

Short-term benefits: Berries, namely the antioxidant leader wild blueberries, are considered brain food because their cognitive benefits can keep our brains working whether we are having fun or we are hard at work. Berries’ immediate brain benefits are a result of being well-rounded: they are a low GI food as well as a low calorie, high-fiber food that keeps weight and blood sugar levels in check. They also provide essential brain nutrients that support mental clarity and enhance performance in the here and now.

Long-term benefits: The most compelling evidence that connects berries and diet suggests that we could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s by eating more. Just a serving per day provides the benefit. Even for those who are not destined to have Alzheimer’s, the most recent research indicates that a diet that includes berries may still preserve brain function as we age by preventing memory loss and loss of motor function, and it could help decrease depression.

A Serving a Day: For Your Brain Health

In the case “brainberries” more is actually better. But according to researchers, just one serving a day of wild blueberries can translate into advantages to the brain – they are that powerful. Do you know what constitutes a serving?

Q: One serving of wild blueberries is equal to:

a: 12-oz bag of berries

b. 1 cup of berries

c. ½ cup of berries

Answer: c. While the definition of a serving depends on your age and gender, just ½ cup is considered a serving size for most people. Want to do something good for your brain? Just eat ½ cup of delicious, sweet, tangy wild blueberries today.

Interested in other benefits? Get the FAQs about Blues.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Brain Palace: TEDMED Shares 2012 Video

The 2012 TEDMED Conference, modeled after the famed TED talks, gathered thinkers and doers from around the world this past April to share exciting ideas and innovations in the fields of health and medicine.

Some videos from the conference, which was held at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and streamed live to audiences nationwide, have been made available to the public so an even wider population of people can take part in the presentations that addressed issues affecting all Americans, including innovations in disease prevention and cure, health care considerations and management, and pioneering ideas in diagnostics, genetics, medications and social issues.

If you are a health and medicine geek, you’ll want to browse the topics of these dynamic talks. Here are just some of the videos now online with ties to some of Wild About Health’s most talked about topics:
  • Judith Salerno & John Hoffman talk about the consequences of the obesity epidemic.
  • David Kirchhoff, the CEO of Weight Watchers talks about living and coping with today’s new “obsogenic” environment and why obesity isn’t about eating too much. 
  • Franziska Michor investigates how to use math to decipher how cancer grows and how we can computationally crack the cancer code.
And there’s plenty more from this year and past years, including videos with Lance Armstrong, Dr. Oz and others. (Check out Calvin Harley and Elissa Epel’s 2011 presentation on how psychological stress causes our cells to age.)

See all TEDMED videos from 2012 and beyond.

Love all things health and science?’s new web site has wealth of information to explore, including information about antioxidants, the latest research into the benefits of wild blueberries, and how to better understand the Glycemic Index.