July 11, 2018
Ever had a Saskatoon berry? Up until last week, I had never even heard of them, let alone eaten one. Thanks to a subscription to a weekly produce box from local farms, I’ve had the pleasure of popping these sweet, summer fruits into my mouth by the handful. According to the flyer that came with the box, though they look like blueberries, they’re more closely related to the apple family. Who knew? Even in my advanced years, I’m learning new things every day – and expanding my palate.
I’d like to think I’m pretty worldly when it comes to cuisine. I’ve traveled around the globe and sampled local fare including haggis, goat and countless other dishes that I don’t know the names of or even what was in them.
I thought I knew most fruits. I remember discovering a new one in China – the purple mangosteen brought from a local street vendor. They were delicious (well, except for the bad one our host opened sending a bunch of insects scurrying across the table) and completely unlike any other fruit I had tasted.
But I clearly didn’t have to go to China to find a fruit I hadn’t eaten – there are more than 20 commercial growers of the Saskatoon berry in Michigan alone. My weekly delivery has given me a chance to try out some other new food adventures like fried green tomatoes, pickled beets, collard greens, kale soup, cooking with garlic scapes and a different way to cook zucchini. What I love most is that everything I get is coming fresh off the fields from a local farmer.
One of my favorite Michigan fruits is the blueberry. Talk about eating them by the handful – I can down an entire pint in minutes. For me, the taste of blueberries just screams summer in Michigan. As I’ve written about before, I have some wonderful memories tied to this fruit, so each one I eat brings with it feelings of joy. On top of that, I know that they’re really good for me and the state’s economy too.
It also makes me feel pretty proud to know that Spartans have been absolutely key to the blueberry industry. Plant scientists at MSU developed new cultivars to meet the needs of growers and consumers — that means more delicious varieties on tables everywhere. Check out the MSUToday FEATURE: Building a better blueberry, to learn more about the Spartan green innovation behind this blue fruit.
Since July is National Blueberry Month, go ahead and celebrate with some you pick yourself, pick up at a roadside stand or purchase at the grocery store. You’ll enjoy great taste and the health benefits that blueberries have. According to MSU nurse and associate professor Kelly Brittain, a diet that includes nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day can even lower your cancer risk. Check out her informative FACULTY VOICE: Dieting for the right reasons, where she breaks down some popular diets and evaluates them in terms of reducing cancer risk.
Nursing student Marlin Till developed his interest in health care when he became a lifeguard at age 15. While he’s had a setback here or there, he’s determined to push himself harder toward eventual success. Read his STUDENT VIEW: From lifeguarding to nursing school, to learn more about this hard-working young Spartan.
I’m excited to see what comes in my next box of goodies. I hope there are some old favorites but also something I haven’t had. While I love food from my past, I’m always open to try something new. It’s kind of how Spartans approach everything – with an open mind, an adventurous spirit and a desire to learn. Summer is the perfect time for adventure, even if it’s as small as trying a new food. Whatever you do, get out there and explore. Spartans Will.