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Sign of the Apocalypse- Chilean Blueberries

  • s

For $1.99, imported in the dead of the Northern Hemisphere's winter from balmy (balmy?) Chile, I just ate a handful of what were the best supermarket blueberries in as long as I can remember. They were just tart enough. They were delicate. They had underlying sweetness and pure blueberry-ness.

What's going on here? Brand is A&F out of Santiago, purchased at my local NYC Key Foods.

Furthermore, the strawberries I also bought are deep red and have a summer bouquet!

Did I just get lucky?

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  1. I lean towards the "you got lucky" theory. The Chilean blueberries we bought Sunday at Bristol Farms (in West Hollywood) are OK--better than the usual tasteless fruit from Chile, yes, but nothing to get too excited about. I generally steer clear of airlifted Southern Hemisphere off-season fruit (we can afford to do that in California, where there's usually plenty of local, or at least West Coast and Mexican fruit in the stores), because our experiences haven't been too good, overall, but our little boy was with us at the store yesterday and we were rushing to get home for the Oscars (it's a sacred occasion here in LA, y'know) and he just HAD to have those blueberries . . .

    3 Replies
    1. re: PayOrPlay

      Oops. Forgot the "I would usually never do this" caveat when buying berries out of season.

      "Dear Chowhound,

      I never thought it would happen to me, but...."

      I'm not surprised at your experience. What makes mine even stranger is that Key Foods is no Bristol Farms. Think Vons.

      1. re: Spoony Bard

        Had some good Chilean berries from Costco last week.
        I agree that fresh and local is usually the best - have had good local berries from Quebec to my Mom's back yard in Ohio to berries picked in state parks and fields in Pa and New York to Me and MIchigan.

        sadly, the NJ berries we get a NY farmers markets are not predictably better than supermarket berries, in season.

        1. re: jen kalb

          bite my tongue - I got another box of chilean bloobs at costco yesterday and they were AWFUL, inedible, dry flavorless... in contrast to the good ones - it must have been two weeks prior. I dont think it was the berries at fault, but the fruit and veg refrig and inventory control at costco.

    2. I bought some at Whole Foods last month and they were mushy and fairly tasteless, so they went into a smoothie. I'll wait for the berries from Hammonton, NJ. Blueberry Capital of the World! (according to the sign anyway).

      9 Replies
      1. re: Ellen
        c
        curiousbaker

        As a wannabe resident (but tragically only occasional summer visitor) of Washington County, Maine, which produces 90% of the nation's blueberry crop, I take exception. There is no way anywhere in New Jersey can be the blueberry capital of the world. For one thing, they produce big, cultivated blueberries, not tiny, spicy, transcendent wild blueberries. I must contact the authorities in Hammonton at once.

        1. re: curiousbaker

          I will vouch for those tiny, wild Maine blueberries. The only ones I'll buy. NJ blueberries are good (grew up there) but wild Maine blueberries beat them hands down! I will sign your petition to move the title of "Blueberry Capital" to the state of Maine. :-)

          1. re: Linda W.

            Twenty years ago I was going to summer school in Western Massachusetts, too busy to cook and almost too busy to eat. But local farmers were selling blueberries and red and black raspberries for a dollar a pint, so I just lived (oh so happily) on cornflakes....Coming back to reality, I am lately buying (in Chicago) Mexican blackberries which are delicious but they worry me because if I were a tourist in Mexico I would be paranoidically cautious about washing and peeling fruit, and you can't peel a blackberry. Would appreciate hearing if anyone has caught a dread disease from eating Mexican blackberries.

            1. re: N Tocus

              This was discussed a while back. Most of the fruits and veggies for export are grown under conditions similar to those in the US. Not the same as the stuff mexicans and chileans buy in their markets.

            2. re: Linda W.

              Are these wild blueberries really wild, i.e. do they grow spontaneously in the woods, or are they a "wild" variety that's farmed?

              1. re: Sir Gawain

                I'm sure they can be farmed, but they're naturally growing in fields and barrens.

                Link: http://wildblueberries.maine.edu/Fact...

              2. re: Linda W.

                Linda, Cherryfield, Maine already advertises itself as "The Blueberry Capitol of the World" as announced by the sign as one enters town on Rt 1 A. Grew up in NJ too, but no thanks you for the high bush giant blueberries. A rite of summer was returning to the Pennsylvania coal mining homestead for huckleberry picking.

                1. re: Linda W.

                  In the above and beyond the call of duty category, my father had his cousins send him 2 quarts of wild blueberries from northern Ontario on the Greyhound bus (!) so I could taste them again after many years in the US, during one of my last visits with him. He understood food (and me). RIP.

                2. re: curiousbaker

                  Megadittos. There is nothing like wild Maine blueberries, especially eaten right off a bush by the side of the road.

              3. I haven't tried the blueberries yet, but the Chilean plums have been really good.

                I did read someplace that Chilean fruit has undergone a major upgrade.

                The real test would be nectarines (and peaches, but I haven't seen any from Chile). Anyone tried them?

                3 Replies
                1. re: Bob W.

                  I got some Chilean peaches from a Pavilions grocery store in Beverly Hills recently. I don't know if it was that they were Chilean, but they were VILE -- mealy, tasteless, and just plain yucky.

                  1. re: Rickie

                    I'm not surprised. Peaches are the one fruit that almost invariably travels poorly. And there is quite possibly nothing so unappealing as a big hunk of mealy, cottony peach. I'm in Virginia, and I don't even risk $$ on "eastern" peaches from North Carolina -- I just wait until I can buy them from the local farmers.

                    Try the Chilean plums -- they're very good if you like a firm plum.

                    I'll bet those Chilean peaches were really pretty, though. Shame they taste like wax fruit, too.

                    1. re: Bob W.

                      I know I should have known better. I stood there in front of them (there were nectarines and plums, too) thinking -- "that's just not right -- peaches in February -- they're probably awful." But they looked so good, and they even smelled good. I bought three, and after spitting out the bite I took from the first, I even tried each one in the hope there would be an edible one. They all went in the trash.

                      If I see them again, I'll try the plums. Otherwise I'm back to my seasonal fruits only rule (which isn't so hard to live by here in So. Cal.).

                2. I had a similar experience. I was enrolled in culinary school for about 3 weeks last month (long story), and in the middle of a lecture about how awful out of season or long-haul shipped fruit is, we were made to taste some chilean strawberries. Now OF COURSE they were not as good as a wild strawberry you might happen upon in late summer in the pacific northwest (my berry utopia) or any other fresh picked berry at its peak, but they really were not bad for something you buy in the supermarket. In my experience, a pint of supermarket berries, even at the best possible moment, will yield about 1/2 pint of good berries, and 1/2 pint grainy or hard or flavorless or otherwise objectionable berries. In the past I also have flatly refused to buy strawberries in February, but these would be perfectly servicable in a tart, salad etc.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Katie
                    c
                    curiousbaker

                    I don't know, I just don't see any NEED to eat strawberries in the middle of winter. I forget which food writer wrote about it (Thorne? Steingarten?), but apparently cookery books in the late 19th century used to instruct cooks to wrap their strawberries in paper to keep everything in cold storage from smelling and tasting like strawberries. Now we're lucky if an in-season strawberry has good scent and a decent flavor, let alone one out of season. I'm not saying I never eat anything that's out of season, but some things seems sacred - corn on the cob, peaches, Bing cherries, tomatoes, strawberries...

                  2. Two things:

                    1) I'm surprised to hear about Maine being the blueberry capital of the world. Here in NYC, I have never even seen blueberries from Maine for sale. You can follow the spring thaw by where the blueberries come from: Florida in early spring, then Mississippi and North Carolina, then New Jersey in June/July, then Quebec and Michigan in late summer, with some Washington state and British Columbia thrown in towards the end. But never Maine.

                    2) My sister-in-law says that you should avoid all
                    Chilean fruit because they have really lax standards regarding pesticides, chemical fertilizers, etc. She says that stuff that would never be used in the US (e.g., alar on apples) is commonplace down there. But she's prone to conspiracy theories, urban legends and the like, so I don't know if I should believe her. I don't want to, because I really love my blueberries in yogurt. Can anyone out there confirm/deny her claim?

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Mickey C
                      c
                      curiousbaker

                      I think most of the berry crop from Maine goes into commerical products - blueberry pie filling, frozen muffin batter and so forth. Wild berries have a much stronger flavor, which makes them particularly good for cooking. Wild berries are also tiny, really really tiny, and I don't know whether people would buy them in supermarkets as a result. You can buy Wyman frozen wild blueberries now, which are a fantastic product.

                      If you're lucky enough to get up to Washington County, which is amazingly beautiful, by the way, you can pick or buy berries by the side of any road, and buy berry rakes at every hardware store. You can also buy lobster off the boats when they come in at about six at night. Fresh crab is available in many places, and there's quite a few great organic farmers up there, one of whom grows an absurdly large variety of potatoes. So you can have crab cakes, followed by lobsters and potatoes and blueberry pie for dessert. It's a wonderful place.

                      1. re: Mickey C
                        m
                        mark grossman

                        the chilean fruit i have seen in Minneapolis always looks awful-- as if it has been in transit for 2 years.

                        1. re: mark grossman

                          That's interesting -- the overarching characteristic of most out-of-season fruit (at least on the East Coast) has always been "looks great, tastes like crap."

                          1. re: Bob W.

                            The tiny Maine berries are probably bilberries, not blueberries. We can grow Rabbiteye blueberries in my area, but I wish we could grow bilberries!

                            1. re: rosemaryblues

                              Maine are wild, often organic, real blueberries. Look out for the bears. Bilberries, I think, are British.

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                It's always interesting to see these threads rise from the dead. This one is from early in W's second term. A simpler time to be sure.

                                1. re: johnb

                                  Check out Bartlett's Estate Winery in Gouldsboro, Me.; it has one blueberry wine in Wine Investor Mag., and they ship.
                                  http://www.bartlettwinery.com/

                      2. The apricots than come form Chile in the winter are better than any summer apricots from the U.S. in the grocery stores. Imported fruit has come a long way in recent years.